By Samsudeen Sarr
In the final segment of this series, I first wish to express with utmost sympathy my heartfelt condolence to the family of Albert Gomez (may his soul rest in peace). I mentioned him in my last article as being the soldier who was present among Sana Sabally’s guards at Mile 2 Prisons on September 6, 1994, the night of the torture, and whom I said took the risk to tip me off about the fake execution exercise. I learnt of his natural death yesterday that occurred years ago while I was in the USA. He once served in my platoon and was a very nice soldier.
I was also corrected on the ranks of Susso, the prison officer whom I was told was a sergeant and not a corporal and that of GNA medic Abdoulie Sarr, a warrant officer class two instead of a corporal.
That said, I still want to do some fact checking on Captain Mamat Cham’s testimony before finishing this series. Remember how he described his movement in the afternoon of the coup with Colonel Baboucarr Jatta who was a major at the time? Cham said that after spending the best part of the day with Major Jatta at the residence of the Nigerian acting commander whom he wrongly kept on calling Colonel Owonobi instead of Colonel Akoji, he left the house at around 2pm. The coup was successful then and he was equipped with some practical pointers by the acting commander on how to help restore normalcy.
He somehow arrived at the State House with Major Baboucarr Jatta and was gladly received by Singhatey who rudely dismissed Mr Jatta. He was invited alone into the building to help “the inexperienced young officers” form a government together with the right policies.
However, upon entering the building “alone” with Singhatey, Cham immediately started recommending original ideas together with “Captain Samsudeen Sarr”. Hello! How Captain Samsudeen Sarr appeared in that scenario from nowhere could have been the best question of the day. But was it simply another missed opportunity by the whole commission that I believe would have curbed Cham’s excessive fabrications or a deliberate avoidance by the counsel to corner the fake general whose testimony was throughout laced with shameful misinformation? He shouldn’t have gotten away with such claptrap.
He then talked about my madness in prison as if he was present when it happened without the decency to credit his sources. Where was the sarcastic question directed at Mr Suwareh that warned him to be mindful of not taking the audience for granted? I mean a simple question as, “How comes Mr Chongan didn’t mention anything about Samsudeen Sarr’s madness who was isolated with you at Confinement No 4 during Samsudeen’s madness?” Or simply how he got to know about it! I may be wrong but it seems like the compulsion in the TRRC to entertain the ever-persistent campaign by some of these low IQ persons to establish my madness supersedes the necessity to scrutinise and prove them more mentally unstable than me. But I will continue clarifying the facts by every means at my disposal.
Oh yes, I mentioned Mr Alagie Kanteh’s regular visits to my cell in my book in that he always came in his black shorts, always tried to talk to me gently and passionately while I remained silent. One of the main reasons why I stated his conduct in my book was to also contrast it with the strange behaviour of another second lieutenant detainee who throughout never for once came to check on my condition. I would always observe him walking by every morning without even acknowledging my presence. Captain Ebrima Kambi also brought me biscuits every morning.
On the seventh theatrical day with my mosquito repellant about to finish I started wondering how to wriggle myself out of the drama without raising suspicion.
Then as if God was listening to me under my hood, word began circulating from prison Sgt Bakary Bojang supported by Sgt Susso that Cell No1, my cell of all cells, was notorious for being inhabited by an evil spirit. Haunted. The sergeants came up with the laughable but welcomed garbage that prisoners locked up in that particular cell during the 1981 coup didn’t end up well. That they either got very sick or died.
However if the TRRC is interested in inviting the right person to lay to rest the controversy surrounding my madness at Mile 2 Prison, I don’t think they will find a better witness than former TSG officer Lieutenant Kebba Dibba. He was among the remaining members of the Gambia Field Force absorbed into the Gambia National Gendarmerie after the 1981 attempted coup and later became a lieutenant in the Gambia Tactical Support Group (TSG).
This man, ever confident of his supernatural gifts and special jujus, would be coming to my cell every morning and with the help of a guard, remove my head towel by force, grab my head as if he meant to crush it, recite verses from the Qur’an and spit all over my head and face. Boy that was gross!
It was the worst and most repulsive part of the whole drama.
I left Mr Dibba under detention with the firm belief of delivering the potent nostrum that ultimately chased away the evil spirit in possession of my soul. I have no doubt in my mind that Mr Dibba, if invited will even tell the gender and home origin of that vicious spirit. Try him!
Two days after the consensus among the guards and detainees that a mischievous devil was really screwing up my mind in Cell No 1, Commissioner Antou Saidy transferred me to Cell No 4 where Sgt Major Baboucarr Jeng had stayed before his torture and “disappearance”.
Candidly speaking, the most sympathetic officer and detainee to my condition was Mr Sheriff Gomez who was in Cell No 3. He had emotionally argued, quarreled and fought over my case to ensure that I was treated right and insistently demanded my evacuation to the hospital. I also reciprocated the spirit by showing signs of appreciating his company to an extent where he was frequently unlocked and allowed to keep me company. Moving me closer to him cemented our relationship better. He couldn’t say that I was mad because he later understood after we discussed every detail of what happened.
Captain James Johnson was one officer who acted as if he knew about the game I was playing. He would always come into my cell and whisper the same words over my head “Just maintain it there, brother.”
In fact, I was with Mr Sheriff Gomez and Mr Captain James Johnson in Cell No 4 on the ninth or tenth day when I decided to call it quits. It was between 11am and 12noon. Breakfast was already served and with the little food I was eating, the hunger was taking its toll on my weight and endurance. I believe I had lost close up to ten pounds or more of weight in the period.
It was like this. Captain James Johnson walked into my cell and sat beside Sheriff Gomez who as always was now by my side. I removed my head towel and looked at every one of them straight in the eyes. Then with a smile Mr Johnson looked at me and repeated the phrase again, “Just maintain it there my brother”.
I burst into a hearty laughter. He laughed too while Sheriff looked a little bit puzzled.
I then confessed to both of them what happened and why I acted the way I did to send a message to our torturers. That they had succeeded in achieving their objective of causing the confusion of one important inmate, Samsudeen Sarr. I wanted to prevent the torturers especially Singhatey from coming back again drunk and deadly. I explained to them everything that had happened throughout the week including my encounter with police interrogator Gonel Bah the previous Sunday.
A few weeks later, I was taken to give my statement. But this time Gonel Bah was absent. Instead of charging or telling me about my indefinite incarceration, the interrogators demanded the explanation of my activities from 22 July 1994 until the day I was arrested and detained. And that is exactly what I wrote about.
Then in the next few days, I went into the cells of those I trusted to tell them what happened, giving them examples of their actions and remarks during the period.
Among those I informed were Dr Malik Njie, IGP Pa Sallah Jagne, Major Sheriff Mbye, Mr Alagie Kanteh but not Captain Ebrima Kambi, Major Turo Jawneh, Captain Momodou Sonko, Lieutenant Sonko (TSG), Mr Kebba Ceesay (RIP), Lieutenant Yankuba Drammeh, Captain Benjamin Wilson and certainly not Lieutenant Kebba Dibba my witch doctor! I may have left out the names of few others but like I said, Major Ibrahima Chongan, Captain Mamat Cham and RSM. Baboucarr Jeng were not there, still hidden away from us as already executed detainees, although I believe they were among those I later informed after coming back on 22 January 1995.
Notwithstanding, some of these officers have over the years tried to use the incident against me, smearing my reputation and discrediting my legacy. Some of them have stooped as low as fabricating that in my mad state I was eating human faeces and drinking my urine.
I said in my previous series that few months after the incident, a medical team headed by Dr Jones was commissioned at the Royal Victoria Hospital by the AFPRC government to determine my mental health and submit a report on their findings. I passed and after being detained for ten months, got my freedom in May 1995. I was appointed deputy army commander and later became GNA army commander.
In my next series I will be writing about my experience of the coup d’etat, starting from Sunday, 17 July 1994 when for the first time the Nigerian acting commander Colonel Akoji told me about the suspected coup plot by the GNA junior officers at Yundum Barracks. I was the military staff officer at the Ministry of Defence with my office located in State House.