DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL AND DISAPPEARANCE WITHOUT TRACE

By Mustapha Jallow

DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL 2

Detention without trial and disappearance without trace continue unabated in the country. Many of those who were detained at the time of our last review on 23 April 2014 continue to be detained and a number of people have since been arrested and are now in detention. They have not been released nor have they been taken before any court of law. Indeed, some have now been out of sight for several years, leaving their families in a state of trauma and sleepless nights.

Many of those who have disappeared or are held in detention have DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL 1dependants who are now engulfed in dire financial and economic circumstances.

Erstwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Solo Bojang, formerly resident in Kotu and a former Commander of the State Guards in Kanilai and manager of the Kanilai Family Farms (KFF), is still missing from the public view. Lt. Colonel Bojang was recently on 12th May, 2014, acquitted and discharged by the presiding Magistrate, Dayo M. Small Dago of the Brikama Magistrates’ Court on allegations of false information and abuse of office. Just after his release by the court, in full view of family members and others in court Lt. Col. Bojang was whisked away by men in plain clothes from the premises of the Brikama Magistrates’ Court. “We are pleading with the head of state in facilitating the release of Solo Bojang,” said a close relative.

According to the source, the family is optimistic as they have been told that the discharge and acquittal of their loved one will be communicated to the head of state and that once that is done, he will then be released.

The relative, however, admitted that the immediate family of Lt. Col. Bojang, the wife and children, are in dire financial straits as he was the bread winner who sustained their livelihood.

The Commissioner of the Gambia Prison, Mr Thomas Jarju, a resident of New Yundum, was also reported missing since he left home for work at Mile II prisons in Banjul on June 4th 2014. He has not been seen since that date. Mr. Jarju’s whereabouts is of grave concern to his family as they haven’t had any information relating to his disappearance without trace since he set out for work on June 4th.

The family couldn’t establish the reason for the Commissioner’s sudden disappearance from the public. He is the sole bread winner of the family and has many children, the youngest being a 2 month old boy.

It’s now 600 days since the detention without trial of ex- Protocol Officer at the state house in Banjul. Mr Momodou Sowe, a native of New Yundum in the West Coast Region, got arrested since December, 3rd of 2012, when he set out for work at the state house in Banjul, and never returned.

According to reports Momodou Sowe was first arrested and detained on November, 20th 2012, by state security agents and was apparently held at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for about a week before being transferred to Mile II.

However, source indicated that Sowe is currently held at the maximum security Wing at the Mile II Central Prisons without taken before any competent Court of law.

In a recent interview with Sowe’s wife who has been on her heels and knocking on all doors of the concerned authorities to ensure the release of her husband, she decried the predicament they are engulfed in, as a result of the detention without trial of her husband who is the bread winner of her family. She also lamented the huge financial and economic vacuum and constraints they are faced with, especially in this month of Ramadan. Mrs. Camara-Sowe is appealing to the office of President to help in facilating the release of Momodou Sowe, whose absence in their family is a nightmare.

Former State Reporter and Crime Watch Columnist, Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh of the Daily Observer Newspaper, according to the family was reportedly missing from the public view when he was taken away by security agents at his workplace in Bakau.

Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh’s disappearance has given rise to be an International outcry by human rights defenders, international organizations and foreign governments. The courageous father of Chief Manneh said that he went to all security headquarters but all his efforts bore no fruit, noting that he approached the then NIA Director General, Mr Harry Sambou, Inspector General of Police, Mr Ousman Sonko and Vice President, Madam Isatou Njie-Saidy but to no avail.

Another family source of the missing Journalist said they used to be a happy family before the disappearance of their brother but things got worse in the family because Chief Manneh used to pay the School fees of their kids.

Mr Lamin Kanyi (alias Kanyiba Kanyi), a native of Jarra, resident of Bonto village in Kombo East of the West Coast Region (WCR) and a former employee of Christian Children Fund now (Child Fund The Gambia), was abducted on 18th September, 2006, by men in plain clothes.

Family sources reveal that Mr Kanyiba was abducted around 9:00pm, when he was seated wearing his vest. They said three men came and approached him wanting to talk with him in camera; adding that without hesitation, Kanyiba granted them audience and requested from them to identify themselves and to explain their mission. But they refused to do so and insisted that he should go with them. “The men in plain clothes then called a taxi driver who was some metres away from the scene. Within a twinkle of an eye, the taxi driver arrived and Kanyiba was forcefully pushed into the taxi and the taxi then whisked him away in full view of his family, leaving the wife and family in tears,” said a family member.

In a recent development, a family source told this reporter that they are still in agony and desperate since the abduction and disappearance of their loved one in 2006.. Family source recounted that at the time of his arrest, the life was left with a one month old pregnancy and currently with an 8 year old school girl, whose school fees has been a problem and a serious burden to the family. They said that they are pleading with the head of state and his government to aid in locating and the release of their beloved one.

However, reports disclosed that his father died shortly after a visit to President Yahya Jammeh in Kanilai where his efforts to help in relocating his son proved unsuccessful as he was denied access to meet the head of state.

A native of Kinteh-Kunda Marong Kunda in the Central Baddibu District in the North Bank Region (NBR) was reportedly arrested on 21st July, 2005, by a group of CID, NIA agents and plain clothes officers behind Albert Market in Banjul. Lamin Tunkara’s family said his house in Tallinding was ransacked by the said security agents who confiscated monies in foreign denominations – CFA, US Dollars, Euros – and Dalasis. The family also said that Mr Tunkara was detained at the Police headquarters in Banjul for few days and later at the Kairaba Police Station. His family said while in detention he was been accused of being an agent facilitating the journey of nationals through the back way to Spain. He was last seen at Kairaba Police Station and up till now family members have no clue of where he is being held.

A native of Kanilai, Mrs. Masireh Jammeh, is also said to have been missing since July, 15th 2005.

A resident of Kanifing Estate, Mr Daba Marenah, who was Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Lieutenant Ebou Lowe, second Lieutenant Alieu Ceesay, RSM Alpha Bah, Staff Sergeant Manlafi Corr, were all arrested on the same day in connection with the 21st March 2006, coup plot and disappeared from public view since then. The government alleged that the 5 men escaped from Military escort to Janjangbureh regional prison when the vehicle carrying them ‘somersaulted’ after it ran into a ditch and the captives escaped. The families of the said men have not been able to trace their whereabouts since then.

It is 388 days, since two Gambia born US citizens, Alhaji Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe went missing in the Gambia, at their Brusubi rented apartments in the Kanifing Municipality while on holiday in the country. Family sources revealed that the duo was allegedly picked up by men in plain clothes who then whisked them away. Since then the two US citizens have not been seen by their family members.

The US Government through its Embassy in Banjul has expressed deep concern over the disappearance of its citizens in the Gambia. The US Government calls on its counterpart, the government of the republic of the Gambia to assist in facilitating the release of the two missing American citizens.

Three close friends, Alhagie Mamodou Lamin Nyassi, ex Chief of Foni Kansala District, Ndongo Mboob and Alhagie Buba Sanyang, all natives of Bwiam village in the West Coast Region, also went missing and never returned home since their arrest by men in plain clothes in a blue numberless tinted glass vehicle in 2006.

According to sources, Alh Momodou Lamin Nyassi, a former chief of Foni Kansala was arrested by plain clothes agents on Tuesday evening, 4th April, 2006, whilst escorting his friend, Ndongo Mboob. The family members told this reporter that they are desperate to see their loved one.

According to them, they have visited all security detention centres in the Gambia including Mile II Central Prisons, Janjabureh Regional Prisons, NIA detention centre in Banjul and the Police headquarters, but all their efforts proved futile.

Alhagie Buba Sanyang (alias Bubai), was also picked up from his house on the same day by 3 men in plain clothes who informed him that he was wanted. The family said Bubai was just from performing ‘maghrib’ prayer. They said Bubai at that juncture handed over his mobile phones to his wife, and then the men whisked him away. The family stressed that from then on; they have not seen or heard from him.

Jasarja Kujabi, also of Dobong village, in the Foni Kansala District, has been missing since Wednesday, 27th of July, 2005, after his house was ransacked by 3 NIA agents in a Nissan 4 wheel tinted glass numberless plate vehicle. Family sources told this reporter that they have not seen or heard from him since his disappearance in 2005. Sources reveal that Mr Kujabi was whisked away from his farm while working. Then they took him to his house to change his farm clothes.

The same source reveals that Haruna Jammeh, who also went missing, was in the vehicle that came to arrest Jasarja.