By Aisha Tamba
The president of the Gambia Bar Association and prominent lawyer, Salieu Taal yesterday told the TRRC that former president Yahya Jammeh used religion and culture to manipulate the mindset of Gambians.
Testifying on how former president Yahya Jammeh used the Judiciary to violate the rights of Gambians and to entrench himself in power, Taal said Jammeh presented himself as an Africanist and believed that human rights issues are for the whites. “He also used religion and culture to manipulate, rule, and attack Gambians,” Taal said.
He continued to disclose that during his work as a private lawyer, there were many obstacles including the arrest and detention of high-profile lawyer Mariam Jack Denton at Mile 2. “The Bar discussed legal actions to get her released, but Denton didn’t want them to take legal steps because she believed it may worsen the situation. As a young lawyer, I was confused because Denton wasn’t charged with any offenses and she ended up being in detention at the Mile-2 Prisons for 111 days. I think she was detained due to the manner in which she was perceived as a supporter of the UDP,” Taal said.
He said the era of Chief Justice Agim was the beginning of the darkest period in terms of judicial independence, adding that the Attorney General was essentially his prodigy. He said the AG and the Chief Justice worked together to ensure that the desired outcome of cases that the state had interest in was for Jammeh’s interest.
“Jammeh was the state. Even some group of parliamentarians and chiefs went around the country campaigning for Jammeh to remain as life president and king in a show they called no-more election in the name of Babili Mansa and it was in the era of Agim as CJ. The coming of Agim led to the phasing out of the Commonwealth judges and he started going to Nigeria recruiting his own mercenary judges, most of whom are not even fit to be magistrates. Coming to Gambia was a huge upgrading for them and they reward that patronage by using the judiciary as an instrument of the executive,” Taal lamented.
He explained a sad episode when Gambian judge Justice Abdou Karim Savage passed away and Justice Agim was not interested in the holding of a valedictory ceremony despite all efforts by the Bar Association to hold a fitting ceremony for Justice Savage. Meanwhile, he said, when Ekpala and Amandy were leaving, Agim organised a very fitting valedictory ceremony for them.
He said Gambian lawyers were seen as second-class citizens during the era of Agim.