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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Distorting history – A response to Jainaba Bah’s ‘Omerta’ series


persons of prudence never lose sight of the element of bias and prejudice, and in many instances pure conjecture. Historical facts in issue are hardly resolved or reconciled either way, and that is because they are often left at the mercy of perspective. Perspective is a human phenomenon – there shall never be absolute uniformity. To surmise, as opposed to a hypothesis betrays a disturbing weakness in the narration or evaluation of historical ‘facts’. We find this often in the realm of self-pity or an attempt at personal glorification.

In counter-revolutionary warfare, the focus is on psychology, and for this reason, psychological warfare has been a potent instrument deployed by counter-intelligence forces to destablise cohesion and neutralise the enemy’s capabilities. It is a tactic intelligence agents utilise with precision dexterity. A revolutionary who educates himself in the modus operandi of counter-intelligence would remain turgidly circumspect in an encounter with law enforcement in every interrogative technique. The job of law enforcement is not only to uncover you, more importantly to neutralise and uproot your entire elements. I learnt recently that one you may have regarded intrepid and immune from mundane susceptibilities at the time of growing up, was nothing but a myth.

It would constitute an operational success for counter-intelligence if a revolutionary were to rely on her tormentor as ‘a credible source of information’ against her comrades. It is even more vile not to confront the person at the time with ‘facts’ obtained from the ‘credible sources’ within the enemy’s camp and remained mute for decades, meanwhile without terminating clandestine contacts for a while. It is disingenuous. To swallow such ‘credible’ information without affirmative processes within the revolutionary ranks may betray naivety. A just affirmation would be a process that permitted consulting the individual of inquiry, without which its conclusions would remain fatally flawed. Validating fraudulent information may be infantile if the subject of the alleged sources of disclosure had no access to strategic information such as the composition of the organisation’s brain, its resources, organisational strength, cell network, et cetera. It would also constitute operational success for the counter-revolutionary forces to have comrades tear history at each other. At such times, there is great virtue in the dictum of Che Guevara that ‘silence is argument carried by other means’. This is nonetheless a necessary departure from such norm.

After decades of reverence for a comrade, it’s not leisurely to alter one’s outlook of  one deemed a true revolutionary for decades, for relying upon the enemy as ‘a credible source’ to constitute a basis for action against her comrades. I will not alter my high esteem of the one I used to call comrade.

Looking back at history, I can never forget that fateful afternoon when I was picked up at school by the late Daba Marena, Commander Sainey Mbye and Ebou John of the defunct Special Branch. It was only few days earlier when these same intelligence officers had arrested Alpha Robinson, a teacher at my school. I was driven to James Senegal Street in Banjul. 

My room was turned upside down, and every item construed subversive was collected by the police. At the time as a member of the ORS (Organ of Revolutinary Students), my activity was exclusively limited to the clandestine distribution of the paper. I was never a contributor, and I had no idea who the authors were. I had no idea where it was published or how it was produced. I was never introduced to its editors or how it was governed. I knew only Jainaba Bah, a teacher in my school who recruited me into distribution. ORS was like a military establishment. It was a disciplined unit, and one was often confined to your level, and everything was on a ‘need-to-know basis’. I knew this, and of course I was very disciplined. Therefore, I knew nobody of substance, made no inquiries of such, and worked with no such material except Jainaba Bah, my teacher at the time. Equally, I had no access to strategic information outside of my mandate, to distribute the clandestine materials which culminated in my arrest.  MOJA-G on the other hand, I had a wider contact, having established my own ‘cell’ after being ‘trained’ by Alpha Robinson. I also recruited people like Abdoukarim Sanneh – the most dedicated student revolutionary I have known, Abba Hydara, etc. 

My arrest was preceded by that of Alpha Robinson, and Jainaba Bah. In other words, I was arrested during classes at high school after Alpha Robinson and Jainaba Bah had been picked up. At the time I was sixteen and very vulnerable. I was placed in a tiny cell with violent criminals, and had to pee in the same cell throughout my illegal detention. I can never forget the night I was removed out of the cells around 3am by the late Daba Marena and Ebou John, driven to Bond Road where I was administered electric shocks for an extended period. My fragile frame could not resist the excruciating pain, and I fainted. When I regained consciousness, I found myself lying on a mat in the open air at the back of the police station. I cannot describe the pain I felt or how my body ached afterwards. It feels like this minute. I had no medical attention and no access to the outside world.

During the killing interrogation, I was shown photos, and told of ‘facts’ that I knew were true and informed were disclosed by persons I considered true comrades. I never believed those tales then, and still don’t. I believed that my comrades would never give me in for pleasure. However, I remained disappointed that I had been in jail for a long time without a visit from a single comrade including Jainaba Bah, the person who recruited me into the ORS, and no form of legal help reached me there. My parents were not even informed of my arrest, although Jainaba Bah and other comrades knew about my incarceration and I had no food or water from any source. I was left for the wolves to feed upon. I was released only pursuant to the efforts of my French teacher, the late Musa Sillah of Bakau who spared no moment for Sidney Riley, then officer commanding Special Branch. After my release, not a single comrade bothered to inquire how I fared. At sixteen, I felt betrayed, and were it not for God’s help, I would have been expelled from high school. 

My greatest strength came from my fellow students at high school, all of whom were neither members of ORGS or MOJA-G, except Abdoukarim Sanneh and two others. It was those students whose interests I served, and who had prior to my arrest elected me to head the student government. They stormed Banjul Police Station demanding to see me. I was subsequently removed by the school administration upon the orders of the government, and for the remainder of my years at high school, I was subjected to all forms of ill-treatment by the authorities. I have no regrets for those days, and certainly nothing to apologise for.


Author: Mai Ahmad Fatty


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