On January 25, the permanent secretary at PMO wrote to Mr Musa Suso of Sukuta appointing him as deputy youth adviser to the president.
The appointment generated a storm of criticism with many including former Interior minister Mai Fatty thumbing down the decision.
Among the vocal netizens on Gambian social media, Suso’s appointment was criticised for his past connection to the former president as much as for a drug-related conviction in 2001.
On 7 February, Suso took the rare decision of tendering his letter of resignation to “protect the integrity” of President Barrow.
A commentator in Mr Suso’s hometown of Sukuta told this paper: “Actually, the people shouting all over the place do not know the true story concerning his conviction. You journalists should dig and find out. What you will find out will even surprise you.”
Consequently, The Standard took up the challenge. In a bid to establish the truth, we mounted and investigation and what we found out was a curious case of arrest, conviction, pardon and reconviction.
According to a source close to the investigation at the time, Suso’s conviction and subsequent travails were a set-up orchestrated from within the then State House.
The source said during their investigations, it was made clear that Mr Suso was at the wrong place at the wrong time and got caught in a web of political intrigue, jealousy and deception.
The source who spoke to Standard investigative reporters on condition of anonymity, explained: “Musa’s troubles started when he was reported to Jammeh of having an affair with Tuti Faal, the former first lady. Musa used to frequent the home of his then fiancée, near Latrikunda ‘Big Tree’ not far from the home of Alima, a Serahule lady and the closest friend of Tuti whom she often visits. One day Alima informed Tuti that Suso was always at the house nearby and she sent for him to greet him. Informers then falsely went to Jammeh and told him Tuti and Musa were in a relationship. Jammeh was livid and from then on vowed to ‘deal with him’.
“Incidentally, a few days later, another bizarre thing happened. Musa was then the most popular NAM in the country and his photos were pasted on walls and electric pylons all along the highway in Lamin. As you know, he was backed by his friend, Karl Smith, a British businessman millionaire. President Jammeh was going to the airport and took notice of these posters. At the airport, he confronted Suso, scowling at him, ‘I saw your photos everywhere along the way. Are you the president or am I?’ Shortly afterwards, Suso had to take the posters down and replace them with bigger ones of Jammeh.”
On the circumstances surrounding Suso’s arrest, a police detective on the case told The Standard: “What we gathered from [V.G. and N.F. the other co-accused] was that Musa didn’t know anything about what was going on. He was driving his vehicle, taking his children from school and going via Lamin to pay condolences to oneArokie Touray, an APRC yai compin in Lamin whose mother had died when he was flagged by his friend [NF] who was standing on the road at Westfield Junction by his car with one Mbye Jobe a mechanic at State House. [NF] told Musa that he was giving a friend a ride to the airport when he was informed that his [NF’s] mother was ‘seriously ill’ and asked Musa to take his friend [VG] to the airport on his way and volunteered to give Musa’s children lift to Sukuta not far from his [NF’s] mother’s Bijilo residence.
“From the evidence we adduced, this was how the woman got down and entered Musa’s car. She told us that was even the first day she saw Musa . When they drove up to Yundum Police Station, the officer on the road waved them on but a moment later, the police whistled them to stop and Musa reversed the car. The police said they had information that someone in the vehicle was carrying marijuana. Musa was frisked down and nothing was found on him. Since there was no female officer around to pat down the woman passenger, police prised open her luggage in the boot of the car and discovered the marijuana. So they were detained. That night the then Majority Leader, Tamsir Jallow and other deputies came and I heard them communicating with Edward Singhatey and instructions were given that Musa be released as he didn’t have a case to answer. But if you could recall, that night, some soldiers led by Almamo Manneh and Landing Sanneh were accused of plotting a coup and we forgot about Musa’s case. He had to spend the weekend at the police and the matter was pushed to the courts on Monday.
“That was when things started getting interesting. At about the same time, a European man was caught with heroin and was swiftly taken to Brikama Magistrates Court before Gaye Sowe. He was fined and released. But orders were given for Musa to be tried at the Bundung courts by a Nigerian magistrate even though the alleged bust happened in the Brikama jurisdiction.
It was a very interesting case and his lawyer PCO Secka put up a strong defence. But before the case concluded he was made a minister and that handicapped Musa’s case. Cheyassin was to be removed shortly after Musa’s conviction. Before sentencing was done parliament hurriedly met and extended conviction time for marijuana possession by tens of years. The stage was set. When it was handed down, Musa was fined… I do not remember the amount, and sentenced to 20 years! It was a clear travesty of justice as anyone could see,” the retired policeman recalled.
Mr Suso was kept in solitary confinement until the window for him to lodge an appeal against his sentence elapsed. During the period he could neither see his family nor any lawyer. He spent the next six years in prison. During this time, he managed to secure a phone and SIM card and was constantly updating human rights defenders and a particular Western embassy about the dire state of the Mile 2 prison including deaths occurring there. A search of his cell discovered notes he was writing implicating the prison officials in acts of corruption, torture, drug dealing and feeding prisoners the meat of animals found dead along the road leading to deaths among the inmates. He was accused of writing a subversive report and was put in confinement and even removed to the island prison at Janjangbureh. He was later put before a panel of investigators headed by then IGP Ben Jammeh. When the report was submitted to the President, Musa was pardoned and released.
Upon his release, ever the populist, some of his friends set up ‘The Suso Foundation’ and it soon began expanding throughout the country. According to an associate of Mr Suso, people like the former president’s then powerful cousin, Pa Bojang, started concocting stories that Suso was on the verge of transforming his foundation into a political party and so during Ramadan in 2008, Musa was summarily rearrested and returned to Mile 2 Prison and charged with false information for what he initially told the investigators about the mess at the central prisons. At the trial, IGP Ben Jammeh testified and corroborated all the accusations then levelled by Suso against the prison bosses. But soon afterwards, Ben was removed and replaced by Ensa ‘Jesus’ Badjie. The state used a Nigerian prosecutor and magistrate to sentence him to one year six months after he had already spent six moments in incommunicado detention,” Suso’s associate said.
After this sentence, Suso was again put in solitary confinement and taken to MacCarthy [Janjangbureh] and had no access to his family and his lawyers and therefore could not appeal his sentence. “They just wanted to lock him up and lock him up they did,” he said.
In 2010, at the end of his sentence Musa Suso was released and demanded and was refunded the earlier fine he paid. Since then he had been engaged in a thriving supply business under his Mutina company.
A childhood friend of Mr Suso told this paper, “It is indeed true. Musa totally abhors alcohol, drugs and even cigarettes. He has never taken them and has never sold or bought them. Ask anybody in Sukuta and they will tell you the same. His conviction and imprisonment were a set-up. They even tried to kill him in prison by poisoning him. This is the true story. In fact, Musa was only later made deputy governor after a minister from Kombo spoke well about him at an APRC meeting. That’s when Jammeh recalled him in the middle of the night. Now, we are going to challenge this record of his conviction and make sure it is expunged from the records because it is injustice of the highest order!” the friend concluded.