Letters: How will this behavior be reformed?

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Dear editor,

If you were tuned to the TRRC during the past few months you learned, among many disturbing things, that the GAF seriously beat not only their fellow GAF soldiers but also civilian women and men, including the elderly, who were members of the Jawara regime back in 1995 during their detention at Fajara Barracks. Then in 1996, led by Yankuba Touray, the GAF, viciously attacked UDP supporters at Denton Bridge who were finishing their political tour. They then sadistically attacked them a 2nd time the same night in Banjul. Edward Singhatey told the TRRC that the GAF are trained to face the beatings they expect to receive when captured by the enemy. Obviously they consider any regime opponents the enemy so they mistreat them accordingly.

Not to be outdone by their GAF rivals, the PIU carries on this sorry tradition of meaness and brutality. Like the GAF, they consider citizens exercising their constitutional rights the ‘enemy’ so they are free to attack them. The few brave ‘elderly’ souls, obviously a menace to Gambia’s serenity, who objected to Mr. Sandeng’s murder suffered PIU beatings during their arrest. Were these PIU hoping Jammeh will reward them with a bull or two for a bareque?

It gets worse. Three TRRC witnesses told of at least 3 criminal sexual assault incidents involving 8 (possibly different) PIU personnel, the most recent of which took place only 3-years ago. One of the criminals in the most recent known rape was said to have used a condom. Presumably the culprits are still on the PIU payroll. Except for what sounded like a feeble attempt to investigate the assault on Binta Manneh back in 2000, we’ve heard nothing from the PIU leadership about these incidents or what is to be done. A disturbed former PIU Sgt Mustapha Ceesay told of witnessing the PIU being handed condoms while on duty at Kanilai. An immediate security sector reform policy should require PIU commanders conduct a daily inspection to learn who among their ranks is equipped with condoms while on duty. Perhaps this simple policy will discourage further sexual assaults.
We learn also that during the April 2000 uprising the PIU shot in the back fleeing students. Some 17 years later the Faraba Banta Commission reported that the three PIU attackers who died were shot at close range, despite the claim that PIU has a policy of ‘aim to shoot below knee level only’. But this failed ‘non-lethal’ intervention left many of those lucky to be alive victims crippled, suffering with pain for life. This Commission also noted that 3 surviving victims were shot while fleeing the gunfire. Apparently getting demonstrators to disperse is not enough for the PIU. Victory means going the ‘extra mile’ – do more shooting and beating.

If the PIU has their way, their reform agenda will probably fix the ‘opening fire’ issues with more marksmanship training. That is not a good solution. The extent of PIU reform needed looks to be much deeper than merely sensitizing them about human rights. This force needs to be disarmed, if not disbanded. Potential demonstrators can do their part too. With all due respect to the demonstrators at Kanali and Faraba Banta who were killed by security force gunfire, common sense suggests do not challange anyone who holds a firearm.
Perhaps it is naive to expect more civilized, spiritually evolved behavior from members of a society where it is okay to beat problem children at home and at school? Do such harmful practices, and others like FGM and the slavery caste system, because they have been ongoing for generations, somehow makes them worthy habits today?
Over and out.

Amet Ngallan
Fajara