By Talibeh Hydara
The truth commission has found out that several female prison officers suffered significant sexual harassment from David Colley, former director of Gambia Prison Services, and other senior government officials.
According to the commission’s report made public last week, when the female officers refused to comply with David’s sexual demands, “they were punished by withholding their promotions and other privileges.”
A particular case that stands out happened in 2007 when David Colley handpicked five female prison officers to accompany then newly appointed interior minister, Ousman Sonko.
“The trip was ostensibly a familiarisation tour for the minister but David Colley had an ulterior motive, which was to provide sex services for his superior – the minister and his colleagues. He handpicked five female prison officers from Mile II Central Prisons and Janjanbureh Prisons whom he thought would be compliant. The female officers went on the trip at a very short notice without being briefed and were not given any Daily Substance Allowances (DSA). One of the witnesses – a protected witness (PW) – testified that upon arrival at Farafenni from Janjanbureh, David Colley assigned each of the women to spend the night in the same rooms as three high-level officials, including Ousman Sonko and David Colley himself. Narrating her own personal experience, PW told the Commission that she was taken by David Colley to the room of one the men ‘for a chat’. She recounted: ‘When I entered the room, he locked the door and asked me to undress but I told him I did not come on the trip to have sex with any man, and I am a married woman.’ He let her out of the room, and she sat outside crying. When the watchman of the guesthouse saw her in this state, he gave her a room to sleep in. In the morning, when David Colley realised that his plan had not worked, she (PW) became a target of abuse and was victimised throughout the trip for three days.
From the testimonies, the evidence suggests that none of the female prison officers actually had sex with any of the men. They served as support to each other. One of them was to get married and was given permission to go home to prepare for her wedding. One of them who was already married got divorced after the trip, as her husband could not bear the rumours. On orders from David Colley on 10th January 2007, they were charged and had their salaries deducted and immediately transferred from their respective posts. One of them, who continued to serve under David, continued to be marginalised and was even demoted. They were denied leave and other privileges.”
These five female officers, according to the commission, who refused to submit to sexual violations by senior government officials during that trip should be “promoted to the levels of their colleagues who were not subjected to any form of harassment or unfair treatment by David Colley. In essence, they should not suffer any disadvantage by reason of their refusal to submit to the unlawful orders and demands of David Colley.”
David Colley is also recommended for prosecution for tortures meted out to prisoners.