By Baba Sillah
The Janneh Commission this week visited a mining site in the Upper River Region village of Badari near Basse which was reported to have been covertly exploited by former president Jammeh for several years.
The delegation led by Chairman Sourahata Janneh visited the site as part of a tour of various sites in the country relating to the financial dealings of President Jammeh and his close associates.
The visit enabled the officials to have first-hand information before writing their report and making recommendations to President Barrow.
The delegation conducted a tour of the site and was briefed by the villagers on what was actually mined in secret for years by men working for the former president.
Site custodian, Tamba Ginkan, explained: “When I came from Freetown, Sierra Leone, I discovered the site and wanted to introduce it to former President Jammeh on several occasions but I could not. So I informed [Lt Col] Solo Bojang about the site to see what could be done to exploit the site for the benefit of the country.”
According to the old man, after introducing the site to Jammeh, samples of “precious stones” were taken for tests to ascertain their nature. Ginkan claimed similar stones extracted from the site were mined in Freetown. He said Jammeh took charge of the site and placed it under the control of General Saul Badjie and Lt Col Bojang.
“Jammeh said I should have equal shares with him even though the site was neither founded by him nor sold to him. I was afraid to pursue the matter because of fear. Since then, I never go to the site because of betrayal by the former president. [And despite his promise], I have never benefitted from what has been mined. Look at how my house looks. He did not do anything for me,” MrGinkan told the delegation who visited him in his compound after the inspection of the site.
The alkalo of the village, Muhammad Manneh, said the villagers were banned from going near the site and had not received any benefits from Jammeh.
“The site was protected by military officers and the villagers were denied access. They [Jammeh’s men]normally come with trucks to transport the mineral to Banjul between midnight and 1am,” he told the delegation.
The Geological Department of The Gambia could not ascertain what was actually being mined, but an official who testified before the commission, informed that samples of the said “precious stones” were sent for testing and once the report is ready, the public will be informed.
Other sites visited by the delegation were the multi-million dalasi presidential villa built in Janjangbureh, CRR, and the mansion built by the late Baba Jobe in Soma which was confiscated by Jammeh after they fell out.
The delegation also inspected the Jahally-Pacharr rice fields which were under Jammeh’s control. From there they proceeded to inspect a multi-million dalasi mansion in Bujinka village, the birthplace of the former president’s mother.
At the beginning of the tour, the delegation visited a garden in Barra reportedly owned by a marabout and which was appropriated the former president and a hill in Kaur Wharf Town gifted to Jammeh by the villagers.