Gambia: More Revelations On Disappeared West African Migrants

For over a year, TRIAL International and Human Rights Watch interviewed eyewitness sources regarding the events of 2005 in the Gambia. This is what we discovered...
25 February 2021

Mawlud Faal of The Gambia Police Force (GPF) and Ousman Jallow of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) yesterday testified before the TRRC, giving recollections of their knowledge on the arrest and detention of about 52 West African migrants who were stranded in the country on 22 July 2005.

First to testify was Mr. Faal. He explained that he was called by Babucar Bah, who informed him that they heard information regarding a group of people who were looking for a boat to be transported. Faal added that they were suspected as drug traffickers.

"We pretended to have boats that will carry them. When we reached the location, someone whispered and we started seeing people coming from different sides in the mangroves. The way I saw them, I realised they were not drug traffickers but migrants because they were not carry any thing that could indicate they were drug dealers."

He told the commission that the senior officer he was with took the lead to call the authorities and in a little moment, they saw reinforcement team with two to three boats. He said the captives were transported to the Barra Police Station and the immigration officers were responsible for recording their personal details.

Faal stated that was the time he left to his quarters and the following morning he realised they were escorted to Banjul for further investigation by the immigration.

Ousman Jallow, an intelligence agent also explained that he was the officer commanding investigation of the NIA at the time of the incident. He further testified that he was called by his boss, who, he recalled could be the director of Operations, Ngorr Secka, and told him there were mecenaries or rebels in the country.

"He told me I should cross over with the navy who were already on board a boat and armed. I think I was the most senior officer and I was in charge and upon arrival at Barra, I went to the police station and spoke to the shift commander and explained my mission. I asked for the arrestees and he pointed at the cells. I asked them where they were coming from and who was in charge. They pointed me a leader who was a Nigerian and he told me they were camped in Senegal and they intended to go to Europe, but a Senegalese agent brought them into the country and abandoned them with a Gambian agent."

The witness said the agent's number was given to him and when he called, he realised it was one Lamin Tunkara, who used to perpetuate such activities in helping transport illegal migrants.

He added that was the time he informed his boss that the arrestees were not mercenaries or rebels; instead migrants who wanted to go to Europe. He said he signed the diary at Barra Station and took the 50 migrants to Banjul.

"I took them to Navy Headquarters and former Inspector General Ousman Sonko and Assan Sarr came with the service chief. Kawsu Camara alias Bombardier intended to walk over the detainees. The service chief asked them questions on why they were in the country but the answers were they wanted to go to Europe. I can tell you the service chief fully knew the detainees were migrants."

The witness added that they were transported and dropped at Baba Jobe's compound in Kotu and other police stations. According to him, the following day, he found paramilitaries in the house but the detainees were not there. He told the commission that they disappeared at that juncture.

Mr. Jallow said that was the time he decided not to continue with the investigation anymore. He confirmed that UN, ECOWAS and AU officials have come to The Gambia on several occasion on fact finding mission. He said he later heard that about 44 Ghanaians were killed by the Gambia government.

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