29 February 2012

Gambia: Rongo Opens Defence in Criminal Trial

Momodou Lamin Jarju alias Rongo, on Tuesday opened his defence in the criminal trial involving the state against him and Abdoulie Efry Mbye before the Banjul Magistrates' Court presided over by Principal Magistrate Taiwo Ade Alagbe.

During his testimony, led by his defence counsel, Lawyer S Gaye, Rongo informed the court that he was born and raised in Banjulinding and still lives in Banjulinding village. He added that his father was among the founders of the said village. Rongo told the court that the prosecutions allegation that he and the second accused are responsible for the division in the village is all false. He said that the alkalo, Eric Tundeh Janneh and some other elders are the people responsible for the problems in the village.

According to him, Janneh came from Banjul and joined the community of the village and became the alkalo after the death of his father Landing Kotoring Janneh, but he (Janneh) was removed as the alkalo in 2005 due to his involvements in land disputes. He narrated that many letters were written complaining about Eric Tundeh Janneh, Babucarr Jeng and Muhammed Faal. He further identified the said letters and they were admitted and marked as ID:D and ID:E respectively.

He denied giving false information, saying Exhibit A was not written by him and his signature is not on it and all he knows is that it was written and copied to the council of elders, VDC and the committee members also wrote to the authorities concerned. Rongo also told the court that Exhibit B is a letter of congratulation to the president from the council of elders, and those are Malang Badjie, Ebrima Camara, Alhagie Lamin Jarju, Alhagie Ansu Colley and others. He said neither his name nor his signature is on the said document, but he knows that there was a letter in response from the office of the president.

Rongo denied organising any meeting in Banjulinding, saying he rather attended a meeting that was organised by Malang Badjie and the council of elders committee. He also denied saying that the president appointed Malang Badjie as the chairman of the Banjulinding council of elders as PW1and PW2 said in their evidence, because the president does not appoint members of council of elders. He described the council as an independent body within the community.

He further informed the court that, Malang Badjie gave Exhibit B (the response letter from the office of the president) to one Malang Njie for the said Njie to tell the meeting in Mandinka the content of the letter. He added that this was done and the gathering asked that he (Rongo) should be given the letter for him to read in English, which he did and handed over the letter to Malang Badjie. Rongo further told the court that after he read the letter, Imam Yahya Bah and Landing Coteh stood up and said that the letter he (Rongo) read was a false document and it did not come from the Office of the President as alleged. He also said that he heard them saying that it was false because Foday Barry and other NDEA officers in Kanifing had already terminated that council of elders and formed another one.

He stated that one Ansu Colley then said the NDEA cannot do that without the knowledge of the community, Chief of the district, and governor of the region, among others, when the said council has been exiting since colonial times. At that juncture the case was adjourned to the 15th March 2012 for continuation of defence.

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