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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Breaking the omerta:One woman’s recount of her MOJA activisim (Part 2)

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Sekou Touré, President of the Republic of Guinea died whilst Dumo and the PDMCNIG people were in detention. After seven months the trial broke down. The PDMCNIG were released, but Dumo was left to serve another three months in jail. This brought his total term to 10 months. The Special Branch failed with their operation as no documents were found on Dumo or at his residence.  Exactly 10 years later in 1993 The President DK Jawara lifted the ban on MOJA-G. We were absolved. We were no criminals. It was for the good of all that we sacrificed.

As I start jotting down a continuation from my last article, 20 children between the ages of six or seven, are among 26 victims of a mass shooting at a suburban Connecticut elementary school, in one of the worst shooting sprees in US history. There is much pain in losing a loved one and no bigger tragedy than a parent burying their child. May their souls rest in perfect peace!

Hugo Chavez has announced a successor Nicolas Maduro, as he gets poised for another round of battle with “rebel cells “. Cancer cells are after all, disobedient workers refusing to follow protocol!

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Madiba is in hospital putting a nation and the world on alert, praying for his continued good health. Baba Leigh is in custody and Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh’s integrity is under the microscope. I guess mine too will be soon, if not already. Am I worried? The answer lies embedded in the series of articles I have promised to write. Even when they seem unconnected to the very hot issues on the table, I still urge you to read them. I will be happy if you do. After all, the search for Truth is our collective responsibility; each and every one of us.

These are trying times, compatriots! For those who have been waiting for the continuation of this narrative, I appeal to you to exercise patience! Facts must be corroborated and individuals’ approvals are to be sought before the storyline is dispatched for publication.

I would like to emphasise that this is neither an autobiography nor the writing of a biography. It is also in no measure the complete story of MOJA-G. Militants or former activists of the Movement for Justice in Africa-Gambia (MOJA-G) would have to compile such a work together when they choose to. Without doubt it will be worth reading and future generations of our children and their children will benefit from the lessons drawn by a group of young people who had big dreams for their country – a nation called The Gambia. Whether those dreams came to fruition or not will be judged by history, I humbly assume. This narrative if you may wish can be read as a simple prelude. Nothing more, nothing less!

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My trip with Dumo for a country tour never was to take place. Not yet! This was Dumo’s fouth arrest. You see Dumo is a personification of resistance. A resistance born out of the desire to seek justice and define justice, what ever the cost. He indeed, paid a heavy price!

Dumo’s first arrest was in 1971 at St Augustine’s High School. He was in Form 3. During an inter-house sports event at McCarthy Square, the police were on duty at the Quadrangle gate. As events unfolded the officers stepped in for crowd control. Dumo saw no reason for the crowd to be controlled. In the midst of the ensued turmoil he ended up fighting with the police. He was a Black Panther militant at the time.

In 1979, he was again arrested, suspected of distributing the underground publication: The Voice of the Future and held at the remand wing of the Mile II Central Prison for two weeks. He was charged with sedition in a trial which dragged on for thirteen months. He was released and as he awaited judgment (Gibbi Janneh was his lawyer at the Kanifing Magistrates Court where the late Mr Edward C Sow also known as Pa Sow presided over the case). Dumo traveled to Dakar, in order to take a break from all the pressures during the court’s recess. He duly returned to follow the proceedings towards judgment. He was freed from all counts and later he moved to stay in Brikama getting employment with Balfour Beatty, during the construction of the Brikama College where he worked closely with the late Saihou Sumareh.

Dumo Sarho’s third arrest came in 1981. This in relation to the putsch! He was suspected of “knowing something”. On September 5th, he was once again picked by Jatta Baldeh, a Special Branch officer posted at Serekunda Police Station together with some armed policemen led by Abba Faburay. First taken to the Serekunda Police Station and later to Banjul Police Headquarters, where Samba Bah awaited his arrival. During the interrogation, Dumo was badly beaten and left hanging on his wrists. With numb hands, a swollen face, blood all over his face and body, witnesses can attest to this, he was taken to the Bakau Police Depot where he started another detention period of 365 days x 2! Here, one has to pause and recollect even if for a second in time and space the events of Thursday, July 30th, 1981.

Contrary to popular belief and wild speculation, The Movement for Justice in África –Gambia (MOJA-G) was NOT involved in the planning of the abortive coup. On the morning of that eventful day, it was Saikou Samateh (Saiks) who woke Tijan Koro Sallah from bed and informed him about the Coup.

On that same day MOJA-G militants were to have a meeting for a final discussion before moving to the countryside. All activists and leading members were assigned a certain regional area to cover for political work. Saiks was going to travel to the Baddibus with Koro. He was to move first and Koro was to follow later. This plan was never executed. It was disrupted by the news of the coup.

Upon arrival of comrades, the meeting was convened but the agenda changed to discussing the coup. The final resolution was: MOJA-G condemned the coup! Certain people in that meeting expressed their individual positions that if Senegalese forces enter the country to suppress the coup, which they saw coming, then, there was the likelihood they would pick up arms; not to defend the coup but to defend the sovereignty of the Gambian nation. And that was exactly what many of them did. When Senegalese forces stepped foot on Gambian soil what they met was never a calculus in their arithmetic. They were met with Balang Baa: RESISTANCE!

MOJA-G had some contacts in the barracks, that is to say members. Mustapha Danso was one among them. In as much as speculation has it that the movement at one time or the other contemplated on initiating/staging a military coup, this interest never lasted long as many people are made to believe. The truth is those militants who were aware of the planning of a military coup by Kukoi were working in the camp to discourage that from happening, waking up from the Mustapha Danso/Eku Mahoney drama.

Ousman Manjang was not with MOJA-G at the time of the coup. This may be surprising to many, but fact is: a meeting in Sukuta to discuss how to forge a way forward for the Movement resulted in Ousman Manjang’s resignation. A temporary resignation one must hasten to add.

According to a very close source, Tijan Koro Sallah was shot in Banjul in an attempt to liberate the city. At the time he was with Kukoi and Danso among others. That was when he (Koro) recommended that to free Banjul they needed more men and arms, and since Danso was a military man with the know-how, he should go to Bakau Barracks and bring arms and men. But Kukoi insisted he (Kukoi) will do that. That was the last time they saw him. The next time they heard from him was from an abandoned transmitter.  Kukoi has a story to tell Gambians!

Moving towards the Central Bank, Tijan Koro Sallah was shot in the stomach. In a critical condition of near death experience, Mustapha Danso took Koro Sallah to the Royal Victoria Hospital and was staying guard at his bed 24/7. As Koro’s condition stabilised and the Senegalese forces were everywhere, Danso moved Koro to one of his (Koro’s) sister’s place in Perseverance. From there, being on security alert, Koro was moved to his other Sister’s place in (Afdye) Half-die, at the Imam’s home. Another source close to Koro disclosed that Koro was to spend some days at the family compound at Buckle Street. I was told his mom Ya Yandeh Nyane, (may her soul rest in perfect peace! Amen!) guarded and nursed Koro day and night, protecting him from the patrol searchers. That one day she barricaded herself at the compound gate offering to give her life in exchange for Koro’s and refusing to let in any patrol officer. The same source further explained that Koro Sallah’s own elder brother, Abou Sallah (same mom and dad) was a die-hard PPP stalwart. He had sworn Koro must be handed over to the authorities dead or alive! A family tragedy unfolded when their younger brother Nyanga Sallah (rest in peace) took a bullet and died instantly for no fault of his but simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Another source said he suffocated with others as they were grouped together in custody. Femi Jeng, Gambia’s legendary host of the programme “Your Quiz Competitors” on Friday evenings at Radio Gambia also met a similar fate: death from suffocation. Nyanga Sallah was on vacation from Holland.

Having lost one son and ready to give her live to save the other this amazing woman, Ya Yandeh Nyane, organised an escape route for her severely wounded son. On an unsuspecting night, a fisherman with a canoe paddled Tijan Koro Sallah (in the guise of a moor) over the waves of the Atlantic to the border into Senegal.


Author: Jainaba Bah, Sweden


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