By Baba Sillah
Alagie Kanyi, a former sergeant in The Gambia Army yesterday confessed to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that he was involved in eight deaths carried out between 1994 and 1995 at the behest of the AFPRC junta.
These are the execution of eight soldiers alleged to have been involved in a purported coup plot on 11 November 1994 and the murder of Finance minister Ousman ‘Koro’ Ceesay in June 1995.
On one of the headiest days of testimony since the TRRC hearings began, Kanyi a native of Jarra Sankwia said he took part in the deaths of Lt Bakary Manneh, Lt Abdoulie Bah, Lt Alieu Bah, Lt Lamin Darboe, Lt Buba Jammeh, Cadet Amadou Sillah, Sgt Basiru Camara, Sgt Fafa Nyang and the Finance Minister Ceesay.
Kanyi whose marathon testimony was interspersed with guttural moans, sighs and shedding of tears, said the first six were killed at the Brikama firing range while Camara and Nyang were shot at close range in Yundum Barracks and Minister Ceesay bludgeoned to death in the home of Yankuba Touray in Kotu.
He also admitted to taking part in digging up a mass grave and burying the executed soldiers but denied chopping off the lower limbs of the executed lanky Gibril Saye to fit into the grave.
Mr Kanyi claimed he was used as a tool by the council members whom he repeatedly described as “undesirable elements” who destroyed his life.
In a lengthy plaintive for forgiveness Kanyi stated: “I am definitely wrong for my actions and I regretted [them]. I am appealing to all Gambians to forgive me especially the victims’ families. I did not join the army to kill my brothers but to defend them and the country. These undesirable elements of young soldiers destroyed by life and I don’t know what to do now. I am even rejected by my own people because of these undesirable elements of young soldiers. I did [everything] to be dismissed from the army but nothing happened… I was praying always for a day like this to come and I believe God has answered my prayers.
So now I am appealing to the commission to help me because my life is not protected and I have high blood pressure. I fear to walk on the street on foot for the fact that I may be attacked by people. I will live and die in this country but I will never run away from the crimes I committed against my fellow Gambians. Yankuba Touray called me [to ask me not to tell the TRRC what I know], but I refused because I want to apologise to my people… that I am guilty of my crime,” a tearful and remorseful Kanyi told the commission.
Kanyi told the commission that on the fateful June evening 1995, then defence minister Edward Singhatey summoned him along with Tumbul Tamba, soldiers Pa Alieu Gomez and BK Jatta to his Bakau Cape Point residence and dispatched them to the residence of council member and minister Yankuba Touray where they awaited further instructions. He said Peter Singhatey later arrived and sometime later Finance Minister Ceesay was brought in by Edward.
“Koro Ceesay was first hit by Edward and I heard a noise and he fell on the floor with blood all over already dead. Then later Edward asked all of us present in the house to hit him with pestle which we did. We all participated in Koro’s dead, I myself, Edward Singhatey, Yankuba Touray, Peter Singhatey, soldiers Pa Alieu Gomez, BK Jatta and Tumbul Tamba. After the incident, Koro was put in his official car and driven away by Edward Singhatey, Yankuba Touray and Peter Singhatey but I did not know where [the body] was taken. The following day I saw Peter with a burnt hand and I thought he was the one who burnt him,” Mr Kanyi explained.
Earlier in his testimony he said he participated with Edward Singhatey in the killing of Sergeants Basiru Camara and Fafa Nyang who were buried at Yundum Barracks in the presence of Lance Corporal Batch Samba Jallow, Private JCB Mendy and the four council members.
Kanyi denied killing Lt Basiru Barrow and “Dot” Faal and said by the time he saw them in the back of a truck, they were dead.
He also recalled that the senior officers present at the Brikama execution ground were Sana Sabally, Sadibou Haidara, Peter Singhatey, Colonel Baboucarr Jatta and that Momodou Badgie, the current National Security Adviser, was neither at the barracks nor the execution ground.
The lead counsel and deputy commission chairperson both urged people not to attempt to interfere with witnesses and or take the law into their hands by engaging in vigilante justice against persons admitting guilt for heinous crimes before the commission.
Sittings will resume on 11 March.