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Breaking the omerta: One woman’s recount of her MOJA activism (part 7)

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With that news a different attitude evolved from my interrogators. They became hostile and aggressive. Their questionnaire changed wording. Now it was no longer about the ORS. My crime had escalated overnight to being a MOJA-G member. All they wanted to know was about Sajo Jallow and they would let me go. Yes, furnish them the guy’s activities and they’d simply let me walk. The answer to that was: “I have no clue – you are questioning the wrong person”. This continued the whole Friday and I was really exhausted. It seemed their patience was growing thinner. On Saturday morning I was escorted by a female constable from my corner in the office to the Land Rover, parking this time inside the barracks. Sowe was sitting at his usual driver’s seat and Marena was next to him on the front seat. I was asked to board the car. I did and from nowhere came Secka Bai and Abu Njie from both sides of the rear and they took their seats next to me. This time they were in much friendlier mood, cracking jokes. Abu Njie exclaimed: “Jainaba says she knows nothing, has no clue, so what can we do?” Secka Bai laughed. Marena in sneering attitude replied: “She has left us no option but to take her to school” That was it. In my mind, I was wondering what that statement meant. Take me to school? I had already graduated from school, so what was that coded statement?

With all that had come to pass, it would have been interesting to have met Daba Marena face to face and for a moment exchange some words with him on post July 22 coup d´êtat issues, but this is the Daba Marena the entire country; Gambia is busy inquiring about. His whereabouts are still a mystery. I do not speak evil of people, and with all due respect, not the dead. No one has confirmed without a shadow of doubt Daba Marena’s demise. No medical record, not news from his family or from his colleagues. Was this the route Daba Marena wanted for himself after violating young ones in defense of a regime he claimed he believed in only to suddenly change allegiance in the next breath? Let us all hope Daba Marena turns up one day or we learn something different bringing his tragedy to closure. 

We drove from Banjul, past Saaro. Two hundred meters from Denton Bridge, the road branches off to a laterite path on the right. We drove about one hundred and fifty meters towards the Atlantic Ocean. The car made a u-turn and came to a halt. There was complete silence except for the song of the waves from the sea rushing to the shore and back. A couple of minutes passed and Daba Marena in a very threatening voice said they are asking me one more time to tell all I know about the ORS and about MOJA-G. That they were going to forget every charge they were to make against me but they wanted Sajo Jallow’s head on a plate and that I should be thankful to supply them that information. They told me that they had earlier before me arrested Pa Ousman Marong (who was our typist, we used to call him Palmer) and that he had supplied them all the information they needed. That they know everything, they just wanted me to confirm and corroborate Pa Ousman’s story so that they can charge Sajo Jallow because they knew he was the big fish they were after. Again I answered I did not know anything about Sajo Jallow’s involvement in MOJA-G. To that Daba Marena said I had left them no option. He took out something like a toolbox. It had wires and batteries attached to it. I was sitting in the same position as when I was arrested. Daba Marena took out the strings and extended them to Secka Bai and Abu Njie. They tied the strings around my thumbs. Then he started to wind the handle of the box as if using a hand sewing machine sending electric shock waves through my body. I screamed.  It was the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. It felt like I was having a cardiac arrest. It felt like the blood running through my veins was boiling leaving wounds and somebody is pouring sulphuric acid on the new wounds. That was how it felt and even worse. The electric shocks were given at short intervals with heavy interrogation of shouting from all three. Sowe sat in his driver’s seat with his eyes to the road and his back facing us. To each question I screamed back the same answer that I did not know what Sajo Jallow’s role was in neither MOJA-G nor his activities or plans to usurp state power. After a while my thumbs were smoking and one could smell burnt flesh. Later I did not answer the questions, I just cried as I received my expertly administered doses of pain. Visualise a Quentin Tarantino torture scene minus the splatter of blood! At one point I thought: This is it, I am going to die here and I am going to die now…the pain was simply unbearable. For the duration the torture lasted I wished I had followed my father’s dreams for me!

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So before proceeding kindly allow me to share with you a few lines from Victor Serge’s What Everyone Should Know About Repression.


IV. Among comrades

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· Make it a principle that, in illegal activity, a revolutionary should know only what it is useful for him to know; and that it is often dangerous to know or to tell more.

· The less is known about a job, the greater its security and its chance of success.

· Be on guard against the inclination to give away confidences.

· Know how to keep quiet: keeping quiet is a duty to the party, to the revolution.

· Know how to forget of your own accord what you should not know.

· It is a mistake, which may have serious consequences, to tell your closest friend, girlfriend or most trusty comrade a party secret which it is not indispensable for them to know. Sometimes you may be doing them wrong; because you are responsible for what you know, and it may be a heavy responsibility.

· Don’t take offence or get annoyed at another comrade’s silence. This isn’t a sign of lack of confidence, but rather of fraternal esteem and of what should be a mutual consciousness of revolutionary duty.

V. In the event of arrest

· At all costs keep cool. Don’t let yourself get intimidated or provoked.

· Don’t reply to any question without having a defence counsel present and without previously consulting with him. If possible, he should be a party comrade. If this isn’t possible, don’t say anything without really thinking about it. In the old days all the revolutionary papers in Russia published, in large type, the constant recommendation: “Comrades, make no statements! Say nothing!”

· As a matter of principle: say nothing.

· Explaining yourself is dangerous; you are in the hands of professionals able to get something out of your every word. Any explanation gives them valuable documentation.

· Lying is extremely dangerous: it is difficult to construct a story without its defects being too obvious. It is almost impossible to improvise.

· Don’t try to be cleverer than them: the relationship of forces is too unequal for that.

· Old jailbirds write this strong recommendation on prison walls, for the revolutionary to learn from: “Never confess!”

· When you deny anything, deny it firmly.

· Remember that the enemy is capable of anything. 

· Don’t let yourself be surprised or disconcerted by the classic: “We know everything!”

· This is never the case. It is a barefaced trick used by all police forces and all examining magistrates with all those under arrest.

· Don’t be intimidated by the eternal threat: “You’ll pay for this!”

· What you’ll pay for is a confession, or a clumsy explanation, or falling for tricks and moments of panic: but whatever the situation of the accused, a hermetically sealed defense, built up out of much silence and a few definite affirmations or denials, can only help.

· Don’t believe a word of another classic ploy: “We know everything because your Comrade so and so has talked!”

· Don’t believe a word of it, even if they try to prove it. With a few carefully selected clues, the enemy is capable of feigning a profound knowledge of things. Even if so and so did “tell all”, this is a further reason to be doubly circumspect.

· You know nothing or as little as possible about the people they are asking about.

· In confrontations, keep cool. Don’t show surprise.

· Again: say nothing.

· Never sign a document without having read it right through and understood it fully. If you have the slightest doubt, refuse to sign.

· If the accusation is groundless – which often happens – don’t get indignant: leave it as it is rather than challenge it. Apart from this do nothing without the help of counsel, who should be a comrade.


Author: Jainaba Bah, Sweden


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