The President of The Gambia Bar Association Salieu Taal has told the TRRC that he and his colleagues were reduced as second-class citizens during Jammeh’s despotic rule. Taal said the Nigerian mercenary judges, who were being micromanaged by Jammeh, would often conspire with some Gambian lawyers to sell cases. He said the lawyers, who were part of the judges’ club, would often walk out of court victorious on cases that they litigated.
“It was across the board to the extent that if you had certain cases, you want to win those cases, you have to engage certain lawyers and mind you, it was not only Nigerian lawyers, but there is also some Gambian lawyers, who were part of that crew. I recall Justice Wowo’s house on Kairaba Avenue, that was like the center, where you would see the car of the CJ, they would go there and drink, you would see the car of the Solicitor General, you will see the car of some Gambian lawyers, some high court judges. It was next to Hatib Janneh’s place Envy. You will see their cars parked there, like the special prosecutor from Cameron, you see Pa Harry Jammeh’s car there, you will see some lawyers’ cars there, some magistrates, all of them, there was this clique and Yankuba Badjie was also there,” Taal testified.
“This clique was running the show. And if you are not part of the clique, forget it. So, even sometimes a case would go to the Chief Justice, he will recommend to you what lawyer to take. It was a mess. We were relegated to second class in our own country,” he added.
Taal was so frustrated with Jammeh’s rule. At some point, he was contemplating relocating to another country.
“For me personally, I hold dual nationality and I have said to myself that this election goes to Jammeh, I will definitely relocate. There was no question about that and many professionals I know, they were saying that they will relocate. And I had Gambian friends who are highly qualified, who would call me, who could serve The Gambia, and I will beg them not to come to Gambia. These are ivy league Gambians in other places, and I would tell them, don’t ever think of coming to The Gambia and felt that was a mistake coming back to The Gambia,” he told the commission.
“Every day I wake up, I go to work, I felt I had no guarantee of coming back to my house. I used to joke that my gardener, that I see everyday ridding on his bike, he had more freedom than me, because nobody would arrest him because everyday I leave my house, there is no guarantee I will come back for one thing, another, that is how we live, every single day,” he further adduced in evidence.