Sergeant Manlafi Jarju, the first accused person standing trial before the General Court Martial at the Yundum barracks for allegedly abusing his juniors during training at the Fajara Barracks, on Thursday 3 January, opened his defence in the case, upon the close of Prosecution's case against him.
Lawyer Edrisa Sissoho, representing the second accused person Coporal Karamo Jatta, cross examined the third Prosecution witness (PW3), Staff Sergeant Buba Camara.
Under cross examination by Sissoho, Staff Sergeant Camara said he was attached to Foxtrot Company as a trained instructor. He stated that Corporal Karamo Jatta was not with any of the companies because he was in Turkey and upon his arrival, they were already deployed to various companies. He said he could not recall the time the alleged incident happened. Sissoho asked: "Would you be surprised to learn that Sona Badjie herself could not remember the date the incident happened?" Sergeant Camara said: "I cannot say anything about that". Sissoho said, "I put it to you that you and Sona Badjie cooked up this whole thing and are lying to the Court". Sergeant Camara said, "What I say here is what I know". Sissoho asked: "Is it correct that after this incident as a senior officer you did not take any disciplinary measures against Corporal Jatta?" Sergeant Camara said, "No, I did not take any disciplinary measures against him, but I personally spoke to him about it". Sissoho asked: "Is it also true that you did not report the matter to the commander of Alpha Company?" Camara said, "There is no reason for that, because not all complaints are forwarded to the authorities and I have personally cautioned Jatta about it". Sissoho said, "I put it to you that you did not do anything that was why you did not report the matter to the authorities". Camara said, "Of course the incident did happen that was why I personally cautioned Jatta".
Going further lawyer Sissoho asked, "What is your nickname within the Army?" Staff Sergeant Camara said, "Asihanyi". There was general laughter and murmuring within the Court room. Sissoho asked, "What does Asihanyi mean?" Camara said; "If the snake can eat salt then 'asihanyi'. There was more laughter. Sissoho asked: "Do you have another name called Karamo Dua?" Camara said, "No, I don't know that name". Sissoho said, "I'm putting it to you that the name was given to you because you were demanding money, D5, D10 and D25 from recruits calling it 'Karamo Dua". Camara said, "That is not true." Sissoho said: "I put it to you that you asked for money so they can get favours from you". Camara replied in the negative. Sissoho said, "I put it to you that you are not a credible witness". Camara said, "I'm a witness of truth". Sissoho said, "We have information that your real name is not Buba Camara, but instead Buba Sanyang". Camara said, "I am Buba Camara". Sissoho said, "Are you from Sintet?" Camara said, "Originally, yes". Sissoho said, "I put it to you that you were giving cigarettes to recruits which is forbidden during training". Camara said, "I never did that".
Sergeant Manlafi Jarju, the first accused person opened his defence and told the Court he was enlisted in The Gambia Armed Forces [GAF], on 19 October 1997 and was posted as training instructor at the training school on 14 June 2007 to date. Sergeant Jarju said he has participated in the recruitment of 4 intakes namely; 29A, B, 30, 31A, B, 32A and B, respectively. He indicated that Sona Badjie was in intake 30 and started training on 5 May 2009. Sergeant Jarju said there were 1500 recruits out of which 1000 was trained at GAF training school at Fajara barracks and 500 were trained at Yundum barracks at ST workshop. He listed the Commanding structures at the training school as, School Commandant, Chief Instructor, Battalion Commander, Company Commanders, Platoon Commanders, Platoon Sergeants, Company Sergeant Majors, Section Commanders, Section Commanders, Section 2I/Cs and the Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSMs).
Sergeant Manlafi Jarjue posited that he was a Lance Corporal then and was posted as a section commander as an instructor. He said there were several instructors but he could not tell the exact number because they were divided into various companies. He indicated that there were 3 platoons for each company and 5 instructors for each platoon of Alpha Company with a company Sergeant Major. Jarju asserted that he had never at any point in time harassed, molested and beaten neither Sona Badjie nor Sona Jammeh during their training as soldiers. He noted that he has never had any personal problem with the 2 female soldiers neither had he ever quarrelled with them. He said he has never received any complaints from Isatou Jatta that Sona Badjie used to insult female recruits at the dormitory. He told the Court that maltreating recruits is not acceptable within The Gambia Army and that the recruits have all the rights to report any maltreatment against them to senior officers. He stated that all the recruits were given a guideline for the dos and don'ts in line with the Standing Operational procedures (SOP). He added that instructors are also given guidelines on how to train recruits and are not allowed to maltreat recruits and not to use a stick against recruits. He added that he would be able to recognise the SOP guidelines, which he did.
The defence counsel Borry S. Touray attempted to tender it as an evidence, but the Director of Public Prosecution [DPP), S.H. Barkun objected to it and argued that the document does not contain any bearings; that it belongs to GAF. Lawyer Touray argued that there are no doubts that the content of the document indicates combat skills that can only come from GAF and no other institution. He added that the said document was signed by RSM Joof as the assistant of the Commandant of the training school, which he said the witness has identified. However, the Court ruled that there is no doubt that the content of the language of the document can only come from GAF, but it would have been more relevant if it is written on the face of the document that is an SOP for GAF training school. The document was rejected and marked as rejected.
Continuing his evidence in chief, Sergeant Manlafi Jarju denied ever slapping Sona Badjie until she ran for cover behind Sergeant Tamba, adding that during the course of the training, Sergeant Tamba never intervened on behalf of any recruits. He also denied ordering the 2 female soldiers to sing and dance 'Lombarr Narr', because he was a Lance Corporal at the time and had no mandate or powers to order for a singing parade when Corporals and Sergeants were there. He indicated that he cannot punish any recruit when his seniors are there. He added that he could not disobey the SOP guidelines because it is an order from the authorities. Jarju indicated that individual punishment is not allowed in the Army and there is a saying in the training school that if 'one does all pay', meaning if one recruit did a wrong, all pay for it together. He stated that he was a Lance Corporal then and cannot order for a fall in or fall out when Corporals and Sergeants are there. Jarju asserted that sticks are purely for Company Sergeant Majors and Regimental Sergeant Majors.
Sergeant Jarju pointed out that Corporal Jatta was not in any of the companies, because he was away and by the time he came all the companies were divided. He said from 2007 to date no recruit has ever lodged a complaint against him to the higher authorities, adding that there were instances when instructors were reprimanded for maltreating recruits. He stated that Adama Jatta is his junior and she could not order him to punish anybody and more so they were not in the same company. He noted that he was in Alpha Company while Adama Jatta was in Foxtrot Company. He said by then both him and Adama were Lance Corporals, but he was the senior man in terms of rank, number and intake. He added that he was in intake 21 while Adama was in intake 25 and he was promoted to Lance Corporal in 2004 while Adama was promoted in 2006.
Going further, Segeant Jarju said on 19 July 2012, whilst at his house within the Yundum barracks, a Military Police Lance Corporal Njie came to him and asked him to report to MP Office with immediate effect. He said he went with MP Njie and met Sergeant Manneh who told him that he would be detained and investigated based on an executive order. He stated that Sergeant Manneh told him that he should be investigated for sexual harassment ranging from intakes 28 to 31 and when he demanded to know more details, he was told by Manneh that it is an executive order. He noted that he complied and was put in a cell. He indicated that on 20 July, himself, Captain Amadou Bojang and Corporal Karamo Jatta were taken to NIA office in Banjul and were told there that a complaint was lodged against them and that the complainant is not known to them. He said they were detained for 3 weeks before being taken back to NIA to face the panel of investigators into the matter. He stated that one by one they were interviewed by NIA agents on different and several questions. He asserted that he never met the 2 complainants, Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh at the NIA. He said he was told by the NIA of sexual harassment from intakes 28 to 31, which he denied. He said he was told that some people complain to them that he beat them during their recruitment, but they did not tell him who the complainants were. He noted that the NIA asked whether he was making love to any of the recruits and he denied the allegation.
Sergeant Jarju posited that he wrote his statement and signed it. He added that from 19 July 2012 to date he was under the detention of the Military Police at Yundum Barracks. Jarjue explained to the Court and listed the types of drills that recruits go through to become soldiers, ie. combat drill, field grab and minor tactics, weapons skill, map reading, foot and arm drill, physical training, section battle drills, platoon battle drills and company battle drill. He added that a soldier should be able to crawl if you are under attack or fire to the nearest cover to save yourself or give cover fire to your comrades. He stated that the very first day of the training they taught recruits how to crawl and as a civilian joining the life of a soldier you are subjected to all forms of crawling and rolling in case you are captured as a prisoner of war [POW); that you would not easily reveal the secrets of your comrades. He said, "During training I have never used these actions against Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh as a punishment and in fact these are not punishments. Sona Badjie was a very weak recruit during training", he said in concluding his evidence in chief.
Cross examination by Sissoho and DPP Barkun continues today.