Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2), Mamadi Faye, Corporal Sura Gibba and Staff Sergeant Sutay Tamba, all of The Gambia Armed Force Training School [GAFTS) have on Friday, 4 January, testified before the General Court Martial as defence witnesses in the trial of Sergeant Manlafi Jarju and Corporal Karamo Jatta who are charged with the offence of abusing 2 female recruits of intake 30 during their training as soldiers in 2009.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), S.H. Barkun cross examined all the 3 defence witnesses to challenge the credibility of their evidences adduced before the Court.
Testifying under cross examination by lawyer Edrissa Sissoho, Sergeant Manlafi Jarju told the Court that a weak recruit is a person who fails to do many things during training as expected from the person. Sissoho asked: "What are some of these things you are referring to?" Sergeant Jarju said, "Weak in firing and academically." Sissoho asked: "Did Sona Badjie pass Basic Fitness Test (BFT)?" Sergeant Jarju said: "That one is purely for PTI." Sissoho asked: "What are the performances of Sona Badjie during training?" Jarju said: "Below average, she cannot read and write and cannot even understand simple instructions." Sissoho asked: "Do you have any cause to interact with Sona Badjie during training?" Jarju said: "Yes during lunch breaks and during firing trainings at the ranch." Sissoho asked: "Where you able to assess Sona Badjie's skill as a markswoman?" Jarju said: "After every firing at the range, Alpha company instructors put all the results and evaluate them. The performance of Sona Badjie in weapon firing was below average standard."
Under cross-examination by DPP Barkun, Sergeant Jarju said he is a Weapons Instructor teaching recruits how to operate weapons. DPP asked witness: "Your schedules as a weapon instructor, does it entail beating recruits?" Jarju responded: "No sir. In weapon training you dare not maltreat or beat a recruit." DPP asked: "Are weapon instructors part of the bush training?" Jarju said: "Correct sir." DPP said: "I will be right if I say that you are part of those that escort Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh to the bush for training?" Jarju said: "That is right, because we were in the same platoon." DPP asked "Would I be right if I say where seniors are not available, you can punish a recruit?" Jarju said: "No sir." DPP asked: "Do you consider beating, slapping and maltreating a recruit a punishment?" Jarju said: "Those are not punishments." DPP asked "What about dancing 'Lombarr Narr'?" Jarju said: "I only heard of that word here in Court." DPP said: "So 'Lombarr Narr' is not part of training?" Jarju said "I never heard of it during training." DPP said: "Asking female recruits to shake their buttocks is part of the training?" Jarju said: "No sir." Sergeant Manlafi Jarju admitted knowing Staff Sergeant Mamadi Faye and Lance Corporal Adama Jatta. He told the Court Martial that he himself was beaten during his training as a recruit when he did something wrong. He added that beating and slapping was part of training when he was training to become a professional soldier. He said Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh never did anything wrong to him to warrant punishing them.
Under examination from the Court, Justice Mikailu asked: "When was the Standing Operational Procedures (SOP) implemented?" Sergeant Jarju said: "I learnt about it when I was posted as an Instructor and not during my recruitment." Justice Mikailu asked: "Have you read about the SOP during your recruitment?" Jarju said: "Yes sir, but that was a Battalion SOP. I was never told about SOP when I was a recruit." Justice Mikailu asked: "Are you aware when you were at the Training School that the SOP says you should not beat recruits?" Jarju said: "Yes sir, I'm aware and I said it here that I have never beaten recruits".
Captain Abdoulie Sarr, a member of the panel asked Sergeant Manlafi Jarju whether it is correct that The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) is one institution?" Jarju in response said: "Yes sir." Captain Sarr asked: "Is it also correct that GAF battalion at Fajara Barracks is another unit of GAF Battalion at Yundum Barracks?" Jarju said: "Yes sir." Captain Sarr asked: "Is it correct or not correct that SOPs of Guard Battalion also applies to the Training School?" Sergeant Jarju said: "No sir, they are two different units and cannot use the same SOP."
At this point, defence Counsel Borry Touray objected to the question and argued that there is no Guard Battalion SOP before the Court and any attempt to make reference to it would make the case of the defence's case difficult. He argued that the matter of SOP has been closed by the Court when it rejected the training school SOP and when there is no evidence of battalion SOP before the Court. Touray further argued that the way and manner in which the question was asked goes into the content of the SOP of Guard Battalion which is not before the Court and it would be too premature to do that. He added that the Guard Battalion SOP should have been available for all of them to comment on it.
Justice Mikailu ruled that with the permission of the president of the Court, any member of the panel can ask any questions even after the cross examination of a witness and cannot be objected to. The president ruled that the question should be answered by the witness.
Captain Sarr asked the question again "Is it correct or not correct that SOPs of Guard Battalion also applies to the Training School?"
With his eyes slightly close and looking half way upward, Sergeant Jarju said in a comfortable English, "No sir, they are two different units and cannot use the same SOP. Each of the units of GAF operates under their own SOPs. I know Sir, you know it more than me. You cannot apply the SOP of the Guard Battalion to that of the Training School, they are two different units."
There was murmuring among the soldiers in Court.
DPP Barkun came back again and said to the defence witness: "I put it you that beating, slapping and maltreating recruits are not part of training at any material time." Jarju said: "I came to know about it when I was posted at the Training School, but not when I was a recruit. It was clearly read out to me when I was posted at the Training School."
Lawyer Touray in re-examining the witness asked him: "Sergeant Jarju, do you know the differences if there is any between the battalion SOP and that of the training school? Tell the Court if you know any?" Jarju in response said: "During training no recruit is allowed to walk within the training school premises, meaning when going from place to place within, you have to run. During training no recruit is allowed to smoke a cigarette, while professional soldiers at the Guard Battalion smoke cigarettes." Touray asked: "Is it the same Officer in rank who signs the battalion SOP and the training school SOP?" Jarju said: "No Sir, because they have different Commanders". Touray asked: "Can the SOP of the Training School be applied to a regular force?" "No sir", replied Jarju. Touray further asked the witness what his designation was in the army at the time he was beaten and Jarju responded that he was then a recruit.
Speaking through an interpreter from Mandinka to the Court, Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2), Mamadi Faye testified as a defence witness and told the Court that he was a Staff Sergeant during the recruitment of Intake 30. He said he was a Platoon Commander for Alpha Company at the training school. He said he recognised Sergeant Manlafi Jarju and knows private Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh. Lawyer Touray read to the witness the evidence of Private Sona Badjie on the day before their passing out that Sergeant Manlafi Jarju punished her and Sona Jammeh by asking them to crawl from the kitchen to where you have the 'Bahamas' grass and was beating them whiles pouring water on them from 9pm to 12am until he, Mamadi Faye, intervened and rescued them. WO2 Faye replied, "I swear to the Holy Quran that I would speak the truth, Bilahi Wallahi, I'm not aware of it and never been informed about it by anyone. I have never seen or witnessed Manlafi Jarju beating Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh. When I issued them with their kits for the passing out ceremony, I left for home at Yundum Barracks to prepare myself for the passing out."
Under cross examination by DPP Barkun, WO2 Faye said he is an Instructor at the the GAF Training School when Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh were on training as recruits and he and Sergeant Manlafi Jarju were in the same company. The DPP asked the witness: "Is it true that apart from being friends, you have very good relationship with Manlafi Jarju among all the instructors?" WO2 Faye responded: "No, there is no friendship between us, but work. All instructors are equal to me". DPP asked: "You have something in common with Manlafi as far as training of recruits is concerned?" WO2 Faye said: "Apart from training of recruits, we have nothing in common." DPP asked: "How many female recruits were in your company?" WO2 Faye said: "I cannot remember that." DPP asked: "Why did you know Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh very well?" WO2 Faye said: "I only know them during their training at the school." DPP asked: "Are you saying that you know all the female recruits in your company?" WO2 Faye said: "No, I cannot recognize all of them due to their large numbers." "Manlafi Jaju also said he knows the two ladies, but did not know the rest. Why both of you only know the two out of the many female recruits? Then something must have transpired between you and them?" asked the DPP. Faye in response said: "The reason is company and platoon level, company is bigger than platoon."
DPP further said: "You know them by their names, because there was some kind of relationship between you and them and not only instructor - recruit relationship". WO2 Faye said, "Apart from training, there is no relationship between us." DPP asked: "How do you come to know these two? Did you know the rest in the same way?" WO2 Faye said: "Due to many recruits you may know some, but some you can only recognize them." DPP asked "Will you recognize them during the night?" WO2 Faye said: "I can recognize them during day light, but not at night." DPP asked: "Is it true that the training school is dark at night?" WO2 Faye said: "If light is off it will be dark, but if on it would not be dark". DPP asked "Can you tell the Court the activities taking place at the training school?" WO2 Faye said: "All I can say is that only training takes place there." DPP said: "It is possible that Manlafi was maltreating Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh, but due to the length of time you might have forgotten it." WO2 Faye said: "How can I forget something that I'm never aware of. I say it here that I'm not aware of it and never heard anyone talking about it." DPP asked: "Are you telling the Court that you do not forget things?" WO2 Faye said: "I'm a human being. I cannot remember and know everything."
Still under cross examination, WO2 Mamadi Faye said he met Sergeant Manlafi Jarju at the GAF Training School and happened to know him because they were in the same company. He added that as a senior man to Manlafi, they have nothing in common apart from training recruits to become soldiers. Faye indicated that he could not remember the date of passing out for Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh and could not recall the date they commenced their training. He said when he was at the training school the commandant of the school was Baboucarr Sanyang.
DPP asked: "Can you remember the time you left the Fajara Barracks for Yundum Barracks?" WO2 Faye said: "I did not have a watch, but I left in the evening after issuing the recruits with their passing out kits." DPP said: "You claim not to be aware of the incident, because Manlafi is your friend and you are covering him up?" WO2 Faye said: "There is no friendship between me and Manlafi, but only working relationship."
In re-examination, lawyer Touray asked WO2 Faye: "When you say in Mandinka that you left the Fajara barracks for Yundum at 'wularangdingo', was it before or after the sunset?" WO2 Faye said: "The sun was still up in the sky". Touray asked: "Can you have taken action in this matter if it was not reported to you?" WO2 Faye said: "No, I cannot take action if I'm not aware of it."
Court panelist Captain Sarr asked WO2 Faye how many female recruits were in his platoon and in response he said he cannot remember that. Captain Sarr told the witness: "I put it to you that 14 females were there." WO2 Faye said: "I cannot remember that." Captain Sarr asked: "What are your mandates in that platoon?" WO2 Faye said: "Tactical aspect of the training." Captain Sarr asked: "You and the platoon Sergeant, who takes instructions from who?" WO2 Faye said: "The platoon Sergeant takes instructions from me."
The third defence witness is Corporal Sura Gibba, who also spoke in Mandinka. Corporal Gibba told the Court that he was at the Training School when Intake 30 was recruiting. He said he did not know Sona Badjie, because she was not part of his group. Corporal Gibba indicated that he has never been on a patrol where he saw or witnessed an incident where Sergeant Jarju was beating Sona Badjie until he intervened into the matter and restrained Jarju as alleged by Sona Badjie. Corporal Gibba said throughout his attachment at the Training School he had never been on a patrol neither to witness an incident of such.
Under cross examination, DPP Barkum asked Corporal whether he can remember everything that was said or done at the Training School. Responding, Gibba said apart from training he cannot remember anything. DPP said to him: "Due to the length of time, you may forget about the incident." Corporal Gibba said: "I am not aware of it neither to forget it. These people were in Alpha Company when I was in Charlie Company." DPP asked: "You are an Instructor at the GAF Training School?" "Yes", said Gibba. DPP asked: "So you and Manlafi are colleagues in the Training School?" Gibba said: "He is my comrade, but we did not move together." DPP said, "But you interact with other Companies and instructors?" Gibba said: "When I was at the Training School, my functions are only within Charlie Company." DPP said: "I'm putting it to you Sura that you are not speaking the truth." Sura Gibba said: "I'm speaking the truth." DPP asked: "Was your company in the bush at the same time with that Sona Badjie and Sona Jammeh?" Corporal Gibba answered in positive. DPP said, "Though you did not know Sona Badjie, you know Manlafi very well". Gibba said: "I only know him by name and as a comrade." DPP ask: "How long have you been at the Training School?" Gibba said: "Less than a year." DPP asked: "Where you at the Training School before Manlafi or he was there before you?" Gibba said: "I met him at the Training School." DPP asked "Is it correct that you used to have a forum as instructors at the Training School?" Corporal Gibba said: "I never attended any forum. It was only once when the CDS came there that I attended the gathering." DPP asked "Who was your closest comrade among all the instructors?" Gibba said: "I did not have any associate among them." DPP asked "Are you a lone ranger?" Gibba said: "I did not move with anyone." DPP said: "Corporal, I put it to you that all what you said here is a bundle of lies." Gibba said: "I did not say any lies." DPP said: "I put it to you that you are a witness to what Manlafi has done to Sona Badjie." Gibba said: "I'm neither aware of it nor did I hear it."
The fourth witness is Staff Sergeant Sutay Tamba, speaking in Mandinka, told the Court Martial that he is attached to Sport Company of GAF. He said he was at the training school when Intake 30 was being trained. When lawyer Touray asked him whether he was aware of what Sona Badjie told the Court that while she was being slapped by Sergeant Manlafi Jarju she ran for refuge behind him (Tamba). Staff Sergeant Tamba said it has never happened that Manlafi slapped Sona Badjie until she ran for cover behind him. He added that he only came to know about that alleged incident in Court. He said it is not true that such incident happened in his presence. He said then he was a platoon Sergeant of Alpha Company. He concluded that he is the only Sergeant Tamba at the Training School.
During cross examination by DPP Barkum, Staff Sergeant Sutay Tamba said he could not see what was behind him and cannot give evidence about something he did not see, know or witnessed. DPP asked him: "How would you know that someone is behind you?" Tamba said: "Only if I see or I'm aware of." DPP asked: "Do you have rear eyes." Tamba responded:"God gave only two front eyes."
There was general laughter.
The DPP told the witness: "I put it to you that you cannot see something behind you." Tamba said: "I can only see something if I am aware of." DPP said: "You could not have seen Sona Badjie, because she was behind you." Tamba said: "What I see and aware of is what I can know."
At this point, the president of the Court Martial Colonel Paul S. Gomez adjourned the case till today, 7 January 2013, for continuation of hearing.