By Mafugi Ceesay
Momodou Ceesay, a former commanding officer of the Police Intervention Unit has admitted ordering his men to attack, beat and arrest students “who provoked the situation on the 10th of April 2000”.
He also confirmed that the students were not armed and they were peacefully assembled at the Gambia Technical Training Institute.
However, Ceesay explained that before engaging the students he had ordered them to disperse on their own accord or be forced by the PIU.
He told the TRRC that his recollection of the event started in the morning of April 10 when he received a call from the director of operations, Babucarr Sowe to deploy his men at GTTI.
Reaching GTTI he saw a crowd of students who were not having any weapons and were not posing any threat as he approached them.
“I cautioned them to disperse but the students insisted and started getting agitated.
I took out my PA system and called out four times for them to disperse or be forced to so by the PIU.
My men then shot tear gas into the student crowd without provocation while others attacked, arrested, beat and chased them. All these were contrary to the operational orders given,” Ceesay admitted.
He narrated that the evening of April 9, he received a verbal order from Mr Sowe to prepare his men, equipment and a get a standby unit ready for deployment as students might go on a demonstration.
He said he never received any written operational order from Babucarr Sowe but an oral order to maintain law and order, noting that the order did not entail the use of force.
He however said if the situation changes on the ground, the commander will decide what to do in consultation with his superiors.
“I was not asked at any point to use force. The discretion was to maintain public order, arrest and detain.”