25 April 2014

Gambia: Update On Detention Without Trial and Disappearance Without Trace

The disappearance without trace and detention without court trials of Gambians and foreign nationals in the Gambia is becoming nightmarish and causing frequent bad experience.

Following recent investigation into the state of affairs of those who fall prey to this traumatizing and agonizing situation, family members give fresh accounts of how their fathers, brothers, uncles and close relatives have been snatched and whisked away from them by people in plain clothes.

In this month's update, we highlight those whose disappearance without trace and detention without trial has clocked nearly a decade, and inclusive are recent persons who also fall victim to this unlawful exercise.

According to our recent investigation, some have never been seen after their arrest, others are said to be held at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters detention cells, whilst others are said to have been put at the Remand Wing or Security Wing of the Mile II Central Prisons.

The former Finance Minister, Mr Mambury Njie, was first arrested on February, 25th and released on 12th of March, 2014, at the Brusubi Police Station, after 13 days behind bars.

He was re-arrested on April, 15th 2014, around 2pm, after he had received a phone call to report at the Brusubi Police Station.

Mr Mambury Njie is currently standing trial on allegations of Economic Crimes and abuse of office contrary to the Laws of The Gambia. Shortly, after granting him bail at the Banjul Magistrate's court, he was re-arrested and taken to the Brusubi police station where he was detained beyond 72 hours.

The source added that no reason (s) have been put forward for his detention. It is five (5) months now since the Deputy Director at the Ministry of Energy, Mr Kemo Ceesay, also fell prey to this menace and kept at the NIA headquarters.

He was first arrested on September 17th 2013, a day following his return from a visit to Guinea Bissau. Our source hinted that Mr Ceesay got re-arrested in December, 2013, after a phone call at 12pm from the state security, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), to answer for questioning.

Family and close relatives of Mr Ceesay inform that they have been allowed access to him, but said no reason is advanced to them regarding his detention.

Mr. Mamadou Sowe, a resident of New Yundum village, ex- Protocol Officer at State House in Banjul, left home for work but never returned home. Sowe was last seen in public on the 3rd December, 2012, when he set out for work in Banjul. Until now he has not been seen.

This reporter has been investigating and monitoring the disappearance of Momodou Sowe. A source close to Sowe revealed that Sowe's wife had a stomach upset on one weekend, so on Monday 19th November, 2012, Mr Sowe accompanied her to Bunjulunding Clinic and did not go to work that day.

The following day Tuesday 20th November, 2012, Momodou Sowe arrived at the office around 9 O' clock and was approached by someone who told him that one of his Directors wanted him.

The source added that he should accompany him to the NIA Headquarters in Banjul.

The source told this reporter that the two left and he Sowe was later detained there till Thursday, 22nd when he came home with two security agents to his residence in Yundum.

They conducted a search of the whole house and eventually went back to NIA office in Banjul. His detention continued till the following week, when, on Tuesday 27th November, he was granted bail with one surety and D50,000,00.

He was asked to report on bail the following day, which he did. After a few hours, he was told to go home but to report again on Monday 3rd December, 2012. He came home to his family and spent the whole weekend with them.

However, when he set out for work at state house in Banjul Monday 3rd December, as directed, he was detained at the NIA Headquarters. Ever since then December 3rd, 2012, to date, nothing is said of him.

The source also indicates that Momodou Sowe is currently at the Maximum Security in Mile II Prisons, ever since 3rd December, 2012.

It is now one year two months (426) days since his detention without trial without cogent reasons(s) given to the loved ones.

A native of Jarra and an Ex-employee of the Christian Children's Fund (Child Fund) who resided at Bonto village in the West Coast Region, Mr Lamin Kanyi, (alias Kanyi Bakanyi), was arrested after his compound was raided by three men in plain clothes on September 18th 2006.

Family sources say he was arrested around 9pm when he was sitting and putting on his singlet. They also added that three (3) men then came and approached him telling him that they wanted to see him in camera; without hesitation, Kanyiba granted them audience and he requested them to identify themselves and their mission, but they the officers refused compelling him to join them.

The source indicated that a taxi suddenly appeared in the scene and Kanyiba was pushed inside the taxi and the driver then drove-off, leaving the family in tears and shock.

At midnight of the same day, another private vehicle with a numberless tinted glass vehicle came to their compound and requested for Kanyiba.

The source further noted that his younger brother, Wandifa Kanyi informed the visitor of his (Kanyiba's) arrest but the unkown visitor then forcefully conducted a thorough search in the belief that Kanyiba was there. T

he source added that his brother, Wandifa, was then whisked away by the said men and was briefly detained at the Serious Crime Unit, in a cell where he spent the night and released on the following day without any charge or conditionality. Since then Kanyiba Kanyi has never been heard or seen.

At the time of his arrest, his wife was left with a one-month old pregnancy, and family sources indicated that the wife gave birth to a baby girl who is 8 years old now.

Another source close to Kanyiba revealed that Kanyiba's father, in his efforts to trace his son's disappearance, tried to meet the President Yahya Jammeh at his native village of Kanilai but his efforts bore no fruit.

Sources also hinted that his father died shortly after that attempt to see the president. Lawyer Ousainou Darboe also filed "Habeas Corpus" against the state to produce Kanyiba but to no avail.

Two High Court orders were delivered for the release of Kanyiba from unlawful detention but the state insisted that they did not have him.

Three friends, Alhagi Momodou Lamin Nyassi, former Foni Kansala Chief, and Co, Alh. Buba Sanyang (alias Bubai Sanyang) and Mr Ndongo Mboob, all natives of Bwiam in the Foni Kansala district, were said to be arrested on the same day by security agents, put in a blue tinted glass vehicle with a numberless plate and whisked them away.

According to family sources, Alh. Momodou Lamin Nyassi was picked up on a Tuesday evening in April, 2006, just after escorting his friend Ndongo Mboob, who was also arrested on the same evening.

A family source said his disappearance has been causing them trauma and agony. He also added they have made visits to the Mile II Central Prisons, Janjanbureh Prison and the NIA Headquarters in Banjul, but all proved futile as no information about his disappearance is clear to them.

This family source calls on the state to help in finding out his disappearance which, they said, has almost reached 9 years now. ForAlh. Buba Sanyang (alias Bubai Sanyang), a family source told this reporter that they are still worried and concerned about his wellbeing.

It could be recalled that Alh. Buba Sanyang, according to a family source, was also picked up on the same day by three people claiming to be security personnel, soon after he had performed the Maghrib prayer. "That was the evening the 3 friends went missing and not having been heard off up to date."

Jasarja Kujabi, a native of Dobong in the Foni Kansala district, also went missing since Wednesday, July, 27th 2005, after his house was ransacked and raided by three persons.

He was put in a tinted glass jeep with a numberless Nissan 4 wheel vehicle. During the ransacking, Mr Kujabi was on his farm working.

He was later accompanied from his farm to his home where he got dressed and whisked away, leaving his family in shock and despair. Sources also revealed that Mr Kujabi was driven-off along with one Haruna Jammeh, who was also arrested on the same day.

The same source also revealed that Jasarja's brother, James Kujabi, was picked up in 2004 and Abdoulie Kujabi, a former NIA Director, was also arrested and detained at the NIA Headquarters on January 5th 2006, and later detained at the Mile II Central Prison.

James was released whilst Abdoulie was moved to the Mile II Prisons. Sources also indicate that Jame's wife was also picked up at a time when she was breast feeding, but later released by the NIA on the same day.

Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, former State House Reporter and a Daily Observer Crime Watch Columnist, also allegedly went following an order from the NIA to respond to questioning on the 7 July 2006.

Family sources said the desperate father of the missing journalist, in a move to search for his son, had approached Mr Harry Sambou, the then Director General of the NIA, Mr Ousman Sonko, the Inspector General of Police at the time, Alhagie Abdoulie Fatty, State House Imam and Madam Isatou Njie-Saidy, the vice president, but all his efforts bore no fruits.

A family source expressed disappointment in the government which he considered unwilling to investigate Chief Manneh's disappearance. "We will not relent until we get to the bottom of this matter and until the perpetrators are brought to book," the source lamented.

The source concluded by calling on all the media organisations and human rights groups to continue their campaign to trace Chief Manneh. Alhagie Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Ceesay, also citizens of the United States of America, were picked up on 22 June, 2013, by strangers and have not been seen since then and did not appear before any court.

According to family sources, the two were in two separate rooms within the building, and were whisked away late at night. In a recent press release issued by the U.S. State Department, through the U.S. Embassy in Banjul, the Gambia Government was urged to locate the two American nationals as the safety and protection of U.S. citizens remain the top priority of the Department of State.

One Mr. Lamin Tunkara, from Kinteh Kunda Marong Kunda, Central Baddibu, was arrested on July 21, 2005, by a group of C.I.D. and N.I.A. agents behind Albert market in Banjul.

The family of Mr Tunkara said his house at Tallinding Kunjang was ransacked by the said security agents who confiscated monies in foreign denominations.

The family added that he was detained at the Police Headquarters for few days before being moved to the Kairaba police Station; that during one of their visits to Kairaba Police Station, they were told that Lamin and his colleagues had escaped from custody.

They said they were also told that whilst in custody, Lamin told his family that he was accused of being an agent of some foreign nationals to facilitate their way illegally to Spain.

They said since then he has neither been seen, nor heard.

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