‘Former justice minister cut off my nipple’


By Mafugi Ceesay

An instrumental figure in the 1996 assault on Farafenni Barracks has yesterday told the TRRC that a former Gambian justice minister has subjected him to torture by cutting off his nipple in the full glare of his family.

Giving his marathon testimony before the truth-telling body over his involvement in the Liberian civil war, attack on the Farafenni military cantonment, torture in the hands of Gambian security elements, his imprisonment at the State Central Prisons among others, Balo Kanteh cast his mind back to 1996 when Gambian fighters in Charles Taylor’s NPFL launched an offensive in The Gambia to overthrow the less-than-two-year-old AFPRC regime.


The attack saw six soldiers slain.

Balo Kanteh on Wednesday recounted how former justice minister Lamin Baba Dinding Jobarteh allegedly subjected him to varying degrees of torture, ranging from slaps on the cheeks and face to cutting off his nipple and dragging him on the ground like a sack.

Continuing his testimony, Kanteh revealed the attempts former justice minister Jobarteh and top NIA official Foday Barry allegedly made to force him implicate Gambia’s first president Dawda Jawara and vice president Saihou Sabally in the Farafenni attack. He added that all this was happening to him in the presence of his father and sister, called to the NIA to witness the torture sessions.

He accused, among others, ex-justice minister Jobarteh, Salimina Drammeh, Joe Mendy and Foday Barry for jointly subjecting him to excruciating torture.

 “Jobarteh holed me up in between his legs and continued slapping me with Foday Barry, Salimina Drammeh, Joe Mendy, Ninja and Harry Sambou, who suggested that we should be given to the crocodiles,”Kanteh explained.

He also testified that a former Colonel of the Gambia National Army (GNA) Sam Sarr alongside Lamin Baba Dinding Jobarteh and Foday Barry also subjected him to a night-long torture to elicit confession regarding the level of his involvement in Farafenni assault.

Still recounting his experience at the NIA, Kanteh said his situation worsened the second day of his arrest and torture when one of his comrades, Yaya Drammeh was brought to the NIA Headquarters. He added that when Drammeh found him sitting outside the NIA office, he called him by the name and then hell broke loose as all those he accused of torturing him descended on him again, beating him all over his body.

“I confessed because I’ve witnessed how Yaya Drammeh has been tortured, his fingers broken and thrown into Bambadinka and how I was continuously abused by the NIA,” Kanteh narrated.

He explained that he’d received all forms of inhumane treatment at the NIA such as electrocution, being bound with ropes and lit plastic bag seething hot substances on him.

Kukoi’s attempted coup

Balo Kanteh told the TRRC that Kukoi had wanted to overthrow Jammeh because he was of the belief that coups in Africa were to be soon consigned to the past.

He explained that Kukoi was neither able to secure the backing of Senegal nor weapons for the operations and as a result, he left them stranded in Senegal and returned to Liberia without their knowledge, disclosing that the government of Abdou Diouf had been providing them food and accommodation before the breakdown of negotiations between Kukoi and Senegal.

Kanteh also explained how Kukoi’s efforts to engage the Diouf government to facilitate their return to The Gambia through Jammeh failed, saying these were among many reasons the 1981 coup leader abandoned them.

“We were there [Senegal] until a time we understood our men in Tambacounda were arrested and taken into custody by the Senegalese forces who were also trying to locate us. It was then that one of our leaders requested to negotiate with Abdou Diouf’s government through one of his friends to release our men and also help us achieve our dream but was also arrested and placed under custody. As a matter of caution, we had to move to Kaolack and went back to the drawing board with regard to our plans to overthrow Jammeh despite the lack of financial and material resources,” he said.

Intelligence gathering for the Farafenni attack

Kanteh explained to the TRRC how he and Omar Dampha severally conducted reconnaissance on Farafenni Barracks. He added that after their surveillance in which they located the armoury, they returned to Senegal before subsequently returning to The Gambia with locally-made guns.

“We used our families to raise the money to purchase the weapons. And the day we launched the attack, we came through the rear where a fence had collapsed. Upon entry into the cantonment, we found the sentry smoking and after scaring him, he ran away and that was how we gained access to our first weapon. We fired in the air and then broke into the armoury. There was an exchange of fire with soldiers who later surrendered and ran away and we took control of the camp till day break,” Kanteh recollected.

He explained that the camp commander at the time, Biran Saine, was captured and he helped them access vehicle and arms, explaining that they left for Banjul by 11:00 am but were intercepted by Lt. Col.Peter Singhatey and men at Baobolong.

Kanteh stated that they were unable to confront the soldiers because they [soldiers] left the vehicle on the road, ran into the bushes and used civilians as human shields.

“At this point, we knew we had already failed because we cannot kill all those civilians as it was not part of our mission. So, we ran into the bushes to escape. I hid my gun in the bushes, joined the civilians used as human shields. I met my old friend there I knew in Liberia and when he saw me bleeding, he enquired but I lied to him. He then offered to take me home for treatment but our conversation was overheard by one police officer who grew suspicious and then effected my arrest before taking me to Kerewan Police Station where I was stripped off my amulets and transported to a health centre,” Kanteh stated.

The former major in Charles Taylor’s NPFL explained how his former comrade Sheriffba Jobe warned him not to allow himself to be used by Kukoi because “he will betray us and that we will not be able to return to Liberia.”