11 July 2018

Gambia: At the Faraba Banta Commission - Suwaibou K. Sanyang, Sulayman Jarju Testify

Witnesses continue to appear before the Faraba Banta Commission, to testify on what they know. During yesterday's sitting of July 10th, Suwaibou K. Sanyang testified before Commissioners. Speaking in Mandinka which was translated in English, Sanyang said prior to the riots, he saw five trucks heading towards the mining site that fateful day; that he rushed to tell one Alagie Sanyang what was happening but unfortunately, he did not meet him at home; that he then saw other people heading towards the sand mining area because they heard sounds of movements of truck going towards the area. Sanyang said the people found out that the trucks were loaded with sand and that some of the villagers decided to block them from leaving the area; that villagers could be heard saying they had warned Julakay not to mine sand from the area because this will cause damages to the environment of the mining area, which is one of the main reasons the villagers prevented the trucks from leaving with sand mined from the area.

Suwaibou continued that he advised the truck drivers to return to the mining site and offload their trucks and find their way out peacefully; that the truck drivers told him they will not offload their trucks because they have bought tickets to transport the sand from the area; that further advised them to move their trucks to another location which advise they did not pay heed to; that as the crowd increased in number, he moved to a distance to videotape what was happening from the quarry; that he advised the protesters to keep the peace; that while on the ground, they received information that there were two paramilitary pick-ups and one truck on their way, coming to quell the riot; that when he got the information, he called for the attention of the crowd and told them that there was a reinforcement of military police on the way but was hopeful that nothing would happen because there were military officers deployed in the village before the coming of the reinforcement and they were peacefully living with them in the village.

Sanyang said as the PIU's came closer, women by the highway welcomed and applauded them. But that to their surprise, the PIU fired tear gas twice on the crowd, scattering them; that all this happened peacefully until they started beating people.

Sanyang continued that when the PIU's started beating the rioters, many fled and ran but that some got stuck; that with the intention of helping the stuck rioters at the barbwire fence, a PIU officer hit him in his back with a baton; that this was when the villagers got furious and started fighting back by stoning at them which was their only weapon. Sanyang said while the villagers were stoning, tear gas was thrown on them; that it took them an hour before another troop of Officers came.

Sanyang explained that two people died in the person of Bakary Kujabi and Ismaila Bah, who were shot and killed by the first reinforcement that arrived; that Bakary was shot in his back and heard that Ismaila too was shot but he did not see his body; that the bodies of the two deceased were taken away by the youth of the village, amid the shooting and stone throwing. Sanyang said upon learning of the death of Bakary and Ismaila, the youth got agitated and said they did not mind dying and they must fight the PIU.

Sanyang further narrated that the second reinforcement were the troops that shot Amadou Jawo and broke the knee of Abubacarr Darboe; that they dragged Darboe on the ground because they could not lift him up.

Sanyang further testified that one journalist by the name Pa Modou, intervied him about the scene and they both saw the PIU's dragging Abubacarr Darboe and leaving him lying on the ground; that as the situation got tensed, many people ran into their houses; that he was with their ward Councillor Bala Musa Darboe at this time, and they both saw a PIU officer trying to break down the door of one compound were the rioters sought refuge.

Sanyang said he could not help Abubacarr who was lying on the ground, with the fear of being beaten, injured or tortured; that he observed three caterpillars ablaze and the building of the PIU's vandalized by rioters; that the five trucks he mentioned earlier were burnt by the villagers; that later he went to sit in a compound called Jarju kunda, with some of his friends; that the paramilitary came to arrest them but he managed to escape and they arrested one Sunkary Jarju; that prior to the unpleasant incident, they were told by the Alkalo that Julakay donated them D35, 000.00 for the development of the Mosque but no member in the mosque development committee, saw this money. At one point he said any money donated for the mosque, is taken to the bank but later changed that any money given, is controlled by the Alkalo.

Another witness who testified was Sulayman Jarju. Jarju said the 18th June incident met him in Banjul when he went to report on bail, because he was arrested by the Brikama police and later transferred to Banjul; that the reason for his arrest was, the villagers accused him of insighting violence against Julakay's sand mining Company, but told the Police that he refuted this allegation.

Also testifying in Mandinka, Jarju said at the first meeting of the Faraba Banta VDC in April 2017, they were told that a man called Julakay, wants to mine sand in the village; that it was the Alkalo who prepared a document for Julakay to go to Geology department, so that they can grant him license to mine sand from the village. Jarju said the villagers told the VDC to conduct an investigation regarding the issue because the alkalo was supposed to be working hand-in-hand with the VDC; that they questioned the way the Alkalo was treating VDC and doing things on his own without consulting them.

Jarju further testified that he was arrested because of his inquiry about eleven of his father's palm trees that were fell by Julakay Company; that in few days, his brother Bakary Jarju came to him by and told him that they were compensated by Julakay in the amount of D25, 000.00 which amount he rejected; that all this happened before the incident.

Sittings continue today.

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