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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Interior Minister denies instructing UN investigators be given alcohol, women

By Aisha Tamba

Former Inspector General of Police has denied instructing Babucarr Bah to take the UN investigators looking into the migrant killings to a bar, get them drunk, give them women and some serious dance.

Interior Minister Yankuba Sonko appeared before the TRRC not as an adversely mentioned witness, but to give evidence on ‘certain’ events.

A former CID officer at Barra police station during the detention of the West African migrants in 2005 on Thursday told the TRRC that Sonko, who was Crimes Management Coordinator, instructed him to give women and booze to the UN investigators.

The UN mission’s report had concluded that the migrants were killed by “rogue operatives” of The Gambia security.

But testifying before the truth commission yesterday, Minister Sonko denied the allegations, saying, “Babucarr Bah is a terrible liar”.

“I was seriously disturbed when I heard his testimony on Thursday. I think he needs to apologise to the UN staff for his comments. I don’t associate myself with anything like alcohol. I only remember talking to Bah about the diary and when he handed it to me, I asked him to go and that when I needed him, I would request for him,” he said. Sonko also denied involvement in any government cover-up.

He however admitted being reckless on the investigation report about the disappearance of journalist Ebrima ‘Chief’ Manneh.

He said when he became IGP, he constituted a panel to investigate Chief Manneh’s disappearance but the panel could not trace any information about him.

“When we sent enquiries to the Interpol, they informed us that he was in the United States. I believed the information because it was from a reliable source,” he said.

Minister Sonko also said the country’s security forces were not on Jammeh’s side during the political impasse.

He said a lot of things happened during the impasse that he would not want to reveal because it would spoil the taste of Halifa Sallah’s proposed book on the impasse.

“Anyone who thinks that the security forces were helping Yahya Jammeh, you are making a big mistake. We withdrew our loyalty from him for a long time. We were communicating with the coalition spokesperson. This is why I felt bad when someone testified here and said that I was the one who took him to Mile 2. But if the person knew what I did to save his life, he would not have said that,” he added.

He said during the impasse he had instructed personnel under his command “not to take instructions from anyone but him”.

“There were a lot of things happening that people don’t know about. I have worked for seven years as IGP without speaking to Jammeh on the telephone. I only talked to the vice president who was the security council chairperson at the time,” he said.

He said when the UDP demonstrators appeared in court for their bail hearing, the Chief Justice at the time contacted him to ask for his opinion.

“I made it very clear to him that if he failed to grant them bail, there will be chaos in the country. I instructed him to grant them bail and during that process, I also received reliable information from the State House that some soldiers had been prepared to attack the UDP supporters at Mile 2. I immediately contacted Halifa Sallah and informed him about it and asked him to instruct them to leave Mile 2,” he testified.

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