Breaking the omerta: One woman’s recount of her MOJA activism (part 9)


Sajo went frantic; totally berserk! He was almost going into a convulsion when I sent him a one liner “NOT TO WORRY!” which calmed his nerves. I knew at that moment I had not lost my sense of humour, the torture had not broken me down! 

Ndura Njie brought me lunch that day.  She too was allowed to see me now. Our eyes met and her tears started flowing. She sat with me in silence. I told her I have lost my appetite but would eat later. As soon as Ndura left, then came one of the female officers.  She told me I was going to be released. I was not sure whether it was a prank or if that was really true.  Within half an hour I was informed I was free to walk, that I have been released with no charges being pressed against me. I felt nothing; neither joy nor sadness! I walked out on Buckle Street and found Saiks and Bob waiting for me outside. 

My first reaction was “kui nôbu du fëñu”, meaning we were not supposed to be seen together. We shook hands. Saiks was having a fat grin on his face, both very happy to see me and the feeling was mutual. I was told we were going to Wellington Street where Lawyer Joof had his chambers. Upon arrival we found Pa Ousman Marong and Modou Mbaye Jabang seated. Their eyes were very red as if robbed with hot chili peppers. I guess mine too must have been the same if I had looked in a mirror. The lawyer brought out our files which he read to us; files with photocopies of written statements. Sajo was still in custody. Bai Modi disclosed the contents of the statements: Modou Mbaye Jabang and Pa Ousman Marong had confessed to our torturers and told them exactly how they were involved in the clandestine work of The ORS (Organ of the Revolutionary Student). They have both explained in written detail the depth of their involvement. Pa Ousman was our typist and Jabang was the co-editor and a distributor of the ORS. They have explained about the cell formations and Jabang has given them a blueprint to some of our distribution network. Both have specified Sajo Jallow’s role in our grooming for the ORS founding and his leadership position in MOJA-G. When Bai Modi took my file he looked at me, stood up and shook my hand. He took a second look at me and became a bit emotional. He revealed that according to my file retrieved from the Special Branch the contents read: “Jainaba have no idea about ORS or Moja” signed by Abou Njie! That meant I did not even volunteer to write a simple statement sentence. I borrowed the file and read the line to myself: “Jainaba have no idea about Moja” (my emphasis). The last thing I wanted to do was correct that grammar! 


We left the lawyer’s premises and I have never seen a more beaten down Modou Mbaye and Pa Ousman Marong.  Jabang used to be this very energetic young man, smart, full with exuberance, confident to the point of arrogance… All of that simply deflated. He never became himself again from that moment onwards regarding the work we were doing. Pa Ousman was one of the most dedicated cadres we ever had. He was working at Elder Dempster and would help type both ORS articles and MOJA-G New Year Messages whole nights. Lawyer Bai Modi Joof told us 




that he believed the case would end there and he would work to get Sajo Jallow out. We parted and I headed to 11 Dobson Street. I placed the untouched lunch basket down and Ndura told me to head to the Atlantic and take a bath. That way I will wash away the evil of custody. I did just that. I washed the dress I was wearing, dried it and gave it away to a beggar, mother of twins at the Russel street turn-table. Sajo Jallow was held in custody for another three days and he too was finally released. His arrest later resulted in him being sacked from his Action-Aid job as team-leader. In the initial suspension letter he was instructed by Robin Poulton, country director of Action-Aid Team – Gambia (AATG) to hand over the company car (a Lada) keys, cash-flow box and go sort out his “problems with the police!”

Dumo Sarho was at the time still languishing at Mile II prisons. Denied bail and without legal representation! I went back to my life insurance classes as if nothing so dramatic ever happened in my life, poised to catch up with the group of what I have missed during my unceremonious absence. I had to report everyday at the CID office from 8am to 10am.  It was during those days when Nana Grey Johnson gave me the book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire. Recently I understand Nana was a cabinet minister and this had provoked both disappointment and concern from certain quarters. Nana is one of Gambia’s most celebrated intellectuals. He is not a Dr Lenrie Peters but he is learned. No one can take that away from him. Did he join MOJA-G in our struggle for social justice because Jainaba Bah was arrested and tortured while working at the GNIC? NO! Did he commit class suicide to 

join hands with the forces of progress and bring about much longed for transformation in The Gambia, NO! Does Nana fit the late Achebe’s definition of a true ‘patriot’ as one ‘who will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best from his people… At the end of the day Nana never claimed to be the voice of integrity and courage, a voice that would speak against those in power; not under Jawara and I don’t see that coming any time soon, now! I knew him as a simple and down-to-earth gentleman who took his job very seriously and worked hard at the Gambia National Insurance Corporation (GNIC). He loved poetry, writing and fishing. Those who can recall would remember him at Denton Bridge throwing his fishing line during his leisure hours. I have never heard his name being connected to any embezzlement of funds or some shady deal. Nana is not the enemy! Simply call him a petite bourgeois and you’ll do us all justice! 

Later we learnt from a reliable source at the Special Branch that Tombong Saidy and Mai Fatty were the ones who were first arrested and interrogated without being tortured. That Tombong did give info as to those whom he suspected were behind the ORS : Jainaba Bah & Modou Mbaye Jabang. (Tombong was our classmate at Saint Augustine’s). But the real scoop for the Special Branch came from Mai Fatty who was at the material time a member of the ORS (NEVER MOJA-G)! Yes, Mai Ahmad Fatty! Both Jabang and I had on occasion delivered the ORS papers personally, foot-to-foot and hand-to-hand to Mai at James Senegal where he was residing as a senior  student attending Muslim High School. Mai Fatty was supplying the police accurate information as to the exact inner workings of the ORS. According to the source, our arrest was a joint collaboration Mai had with the police. He delivered our heads on a silver platter to the state agents of brutality and coercion without batting an eye.  When I read Mai’s entrance on the political arena claiming to want to deliver The Gambia from evil, I could not decide whether to check myself straight in to a psychiatric ward or simply pull an Alpha Robinson on him; meaning travel to Senegal and as they call it, “pray” him to the beach with the simple question: “HOW DARE YOU?”  I could have written a one paragraph article to all the online papers and the newspapers back home urging people to boycott Mai Fatty and his party, but in a collective protracted struggle you keep your eye on the ball. Personal vendettas have no space and one should rise above self pity. I exercised restraint and simply ignored Mai Fatty. Mai you owe us an apology, especially Pa Ousman Marong, Modou Mbaye Jabang and my humble self! I do not urge you to scramble for some lawyer notes, nor should you come out with the line “I am innocent, it’s a fabrication”. Be a man and own up to what you did! Speaking for myself, I will whole heartedly forgive you. I was told Secka Bai is presently at Mile II serving a death sentence after being implicated in the Lang Tombong treason trial. 





Author: Jainaba Bah, Sweden