By Baba Sillah
In late August 2012, nine death row inmates were executed. On Sunday August 26, the Ministry of the Interior issued an official statement confirming the deaths of Dawda Bojang, Malang Sonko, Ex-Lieutenant Lamin Jarjou, Ex-Lieutenant Alieu Bah, Ex-Sergeant Lamin F Jammeh, Buba Yarboe, Lamin BS Darboe, Gebe Ba and Tabara Samb.
The government statement read: “Following the convictions and pronouncements of death sentences by the Gambian courts of competent jurisdiction and further to the exhaustion of their appeals, the Ministry of Interior wishes to inform the general public that the …convicts were executed by firing squad on Sunday 26th August, 2012.”
The executions were met by universal condemnation and resulted in the closure of The Standard newspaper for 18 months and Taranga FM station.
Although the government admitted the killings, the bodies were never returned to their families and accounts emerged from eyewitness accounts disputing the manner of the executions as reported by the government.
In this investigative series, The Standard has found out the truth as revealed by the very people who took part in the killings.
According to several members of Jammeh’s hit squad, the Junglers, now in the custody of the Gambian authorities, the killings in fact took place on the night of Thursday 23 to early morning of Friday 24 August at the GAF practice shooting range in the westerly outskirts of Brikama. And the inmates were not shot to death but suffocated and strangled to death.
Jungler Staff Sgt Amadou Badjie said he was picked up from Fajara Barracks at about 7pm on the day and teamed with the other Junglers at Sting Corner on the highway to Banjul from where they proceeded to the central prison at Mile 2.
Jungler Staff Sgt Lamin Badjie also in custody told the investigators that about 10pm to 11pm, they met former Interior minister Ousman Sonko, Gen Saul Badjie, Prison boss David Colley, Lt Col Solo Bojang, “a judge” or the then Justice minister (according to Jungler Staff Sgt Omar A Jallow) and others at the prisons with a piece of paper calling out the inmates.
Warrant Officer Lamin Sambou, a native of Foni Sintet and a Jungler said at first, two prisoners, a male and a female, were brought out with their hands and legs cuffed. He said the nine prisoners were put in two vehicles and he was in a vehicle with Warrant Officer Fansu Nyabally and Capt Michael Jatta. “When we departed from Mile 2 prison, we headed towards the Coastal Road. There, Michael Jatta parked the vehicle and Nyabally put out black plastic bags and covered the heads of [the shackled man and woman] and strapped it and asked me to hold their hands. That is how I hold it [sic] and they died in the vehicle and we went to the range with the dead bodies,” he narrated.
Junglers Staff Sgts Amadou and Lamin Badjie, Omar A Jallow, WO Sambou and others said the prisoners were not killed by firing squad but were executed by putting “double plastic bags” on their heads and suffocating them.
Amadou Badjie pointedly told the investigators: “They were killed by tying a rope around their necks by Rambo [Maj Modou Jarju – at large] and other officers strangled them to death whilst the others participated in holding their hands and legs during the process…”
Sambou said Gen Saul Badjie and Minister Sonko counted and confirmed the bodies before they were put on vehicles and taken to Foni.
Sambou explained: “When we got to a small village in Foni, Solo Bojang came back with one old man who he went with into the bush and later came back. Solo said there is a well where we are going to dispose these bodies. Each dead body was carried by two men to the well. These bodies were handed over to Solo Bojang who finally threw them in the old well after [some] recitation. I finally took these persons’ clothes and shoes from the car to Solo Bojang and Sulayman Badjie at the well. Then we were all asked to back to the vehicles. They were there for 30 minutes and when they came, all of us went back to Kanilai. During the briefing, we were told not to fear anything as it is a state matter. It was after the event I was instructed by Rambo Capt Jarju to watch his car during which I discover blood stains and human waste.”