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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

TRRC anything but a truth and reconciliation commission

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By Samsudeen Sarr

First, let me be clear to all my readers. The new or same provocateurs online with pseudonyms demanding for my silence on the ongoing activities at The Gambia’s TRRC should learn from their washout forebears about my immunity to their tactics of resorting to inconsequential insults aimed at stopping me. I was once a schoolteacher, a Gambia National Army commander, a diplomat at the United Nations, an author of two books and a Gambian. These are indisputable references that naturally put me in position of authority in many areas in this country with the audacity to share my experiences with the world whenever deemed necessary. Therefore, there is nothing or nobody that can stop me from exercising my right and ability to write about the affairs of the ongoing Gambian TRRC because of how it affects me directly or indirectly and the people who still respect me as their teacher, their commander, their diplomat or fellow Gambian citizen.

How many times have my name been mentioned at the TRRC in tales that if assiduously scrutinised are fraught with dubious evidences poignant enough to assassinate anybody’s character? In the wake of the recent arrest of Yankuba Touray thanks to Baboucarr Jeng first and Alagie Kanyi second, a close relative called to suggest to my wife the need to seek help from marabouts because of the frequency at which my name was being mentioned at the TRRC and the “beginning of the arrest of those who had been found guilty of supporting President Yahya Jammeh and his government”. That is how the woman and many ill-informed Gambians conceptualise the rationale behind the TRRC as merely a kind of miniature court that will eventually hang people like Samsudeen Sarr for once supporting the APRC government or President Yahya Jammeh.

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Who else will defend me if I don’t do it for myself when my colleagues who very well know that I was never a bad person to anyone in my entire career will not stand by me but instead are sworn under oath to make me look like a monster under the guidance of a commission that seem more of a collaborator to their ungodliness than fair-minded judges questioning them?
However, I don’t know whether I will ever appear before the commission or not but to cover my track record for posterity, I will continue to write about what I know and feel on the misleading topics discussed that indeed affect me, my family members and those good citizens who know me as a good person throughout their lives. I don’t care about the insignificant denigrators demonising me for no good reasons but to silence me.

With all honesty, the more I watch the TRRC sittings the more I find it hard to accept the idea that it is all about finding the truth for a genuine reconciliation of all Gambians. And the signal being sent to the masses having limited ability to analyse complex trial methodology as the procedure appears to be, further reinforces my suspicion of a deliberate effort to mislead the public. This is worsened by the word of mouth redistribution of the tainted stories, diluted every moment a person tells it to another. In my estimation, it is increasingly looking like anything but a truth and reconciliation commission.

In the beginning, I only wanted to blame the TRRC investigating team for not doing enough to bring to the attention of the counsel those witnesses whose testimonies are insidiously flawed so as to either stop them from testifying without first getting their facts straight, or if they have to, for the public to understand at the spot that the person was lying if he started doing so. Leaving it to the public to make their own judgment when most of them barely understood the English being spoken puts a huge dent on the credibility of the entire commission.

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A better way of approaching things would have been to organise preliminary private sessions with the witnesses as a rehearsal to vet the content of their materials before the main sitting where all inconsistencies and contradictions would be trashed out first.
If that was the case, one would have prevented General Mamat Cham from confirming my madness in jail when he was not there when it happened. Mamat Cham was with AIG Ebrima Chongan and Baboucarr Jeng at Confinement Block 1 in total incommunicado when it happened. None of those two said anything about my madness. But it was like encouraging Mamat Cham alone, dressed up and looking like a real general in full uniform to confidently assert before the whole nation that I was really mad. He could have had the decency to quote his source of the information which sent a wave of a story so seemingly true that few if anybody would ever doubt it coming from “the general and the national army commander”. It was at best a very low blow with nasty intentions.

I will continue calling Mamat Cham a fake general, because we all know what it takes to be decorated a general in a real infantry army of which he lacks all the merits. As an ordinary captain, picked from the streets after being inactive in the service for over 20 years and given an honorary general’s rank with an appointment to command the whole national army epitomises the abuse of every military ethics and standard. It is like awarding an honorary doctorate degree to a retired schoolteacher and appointing him or her as dean of the academic faculty of an accredited university. You can put lipstick on a pig, but she will still be a pig!
Again, watch the tapes and see how Captain Alagie Kanteh was obsessively led by Counsel Faal to make him just say that I was mad at Mile 2 Prison despite the officer’s serious reluctance to say so. And when Kanteh finally did, he breathed a heavy sigh of relief as if his life had depended on the answer. What was all that about?
Baffled by Faal’s infatuation to establish my madness at the TRRC from the word go, I had to explain the whole incident at Mile 2 in a series subtitled, “The Taste of Madness”. In fact, I had mentioned it in my book, Coup d’etat By The Gambia National Army, available at Amazon bookstore. Anyway, every word in the series was published by Freedom online and The Gambia’s The Standard newspaper.

But perhaps with their expectations frustrated by the negative outcome of not having the desired impact of silencing me, they brought Baboucarr Jeng who apparently falsified his image as the biggest shot the GNA ever enlisted. I was not going to dignify his jabbering until he came back the second day of his testimony seeking permission to address what he had forgotten in his previous day’s testament. What was that? That I was the one who convinced Sana Sabally to arrest him on 23 July 1994 at Yundum Barracks. I think Counsel Gaye with all her controlled emotions was taken aback by Jeng’s new revelations factoring how important, if not the most important, was about his arrest.

That I was also exclusively responsible for his dismissal from the GNA. Then to my utter disappointment, Counsel Gaye let him get away with his treachery in his refusal to openly name the orderly of Sana Sabally whom he said was his source for that information. If the lady was fair to me, she wouldn’t have made it easy for Jeng by simply asking him to send her a secret note bearing the scribbled name of Sabally’s orderly. Who knows whether he had even written anything on that note at all? Maybe something to the effect of letting Counsel Gaye understand that he was coached to say so and if pushed will give the name of the coach. Jeng knows that he was lying about me and a mysterious orderly of Sana Sabally. If Sana Sabally was to testify, I am sure he will deny it.

Furthermore, I believe the chief investigator reported to be a former military captain in the US Army should have known better and advised the counsel not to accept the verbal testimony of Baboucarr Jeng for saying that I fired him from the army as a captain without the authority to do so. That Captain Barrow knows that the army does not work that way unless I am made to believe that his advice was ignored which is perfectly possible. The evidence Jeng said was the letter I wrote to him couldn’t have been under normal circumstances forgotten in England when he was coming to testify, as he finally said. Regardless of assuring the commission that he was going to send the letter upon his return home, I bet there is no such letter in the first place.

Then from nowhere, they brought in the GNA soldier Private Abdoulie Darboe to play it dirtier than all. Darboe said he was released from detention in March 1996 and soon after came to the Army Headquarters where I was the GNA army commander and demanded that I signed his discharge papers in order to get his benefits paid and that I refused to do so. He then went into a protracted cock and bull story about how we exchanged threats against each other until he had to give me an ultimatum to sign it by Wednesday or face the consequence. It was on a Monday. Then on that Wednesday in 1996, he returned and found me dismissed from the army, giving the impression of using some mumbo-jumbo magical powers to have got rid of me from the army. He then stated how he later got the immediate cooperation of Captain Ndure Cham (RIP), supposedly my successor, to sign his documents and avoid the similar wraths of his wizardry. I can swear that I cannot ever remember meeting this chap.

No investigation was conducted to verify the credibility of Darboe; otherwise, the commission would have learnt that the army commanders do not sign discharge certificates of private soldiers; that I was not the army commander in 1996; that Colonel Baboucarr Jatta was; that I was appointed army commander in 1998 and was retired in June 1999; that it was Colonel Lawrence Jarra who took over the command from me and not Ndure Cham. All these people except Ndure Cham are around to confirm any doubts from them.

Then most important of all, something I never expected happened; Counsel Gaye after his closing remarks made a reference to Private Darboe’s discharge certificate asking him to confirm it as being the one signed by his commanding officer and not an army commander in April 2000. Most of the listeners wouldn’t understand the difference between commanding officer and army commander, something very relevant that the counsel should have clarified for the public. Darboe nervously endorsed it fearing that Counsel Gaye will go further to ask him to name the commanding officer but she didn’t, lest the audience would know there and then that it was not signed by Ndure Cham or an army commander. The next best question I expected was for the lady to ask Darboe what he would say to the suggestion that in April 2000, Samsudeen Sarr was already living in the USA for nine months. I had by then left The Gambia on self-exile to the USA since July 1999.
Now how wrong can I possibly be if I started having serious doubts over the sincerity of the TRRC in their quest to get the truth in order to reconcile our differences as a nation?
Actually, my faith in the TRRC as fair judges is completely eroded, leaving me with no choice but to respond to their partiality whenever necessary.

I am not going to any huge-gown-wearing-corner-street marabout to rescue me from the mass arrest of the former Jammeh supporters as my relative was made to believe after the arrest of Yankuba Touray. I am all ready to go back to Confinement Number 4 at Mile 2 Central Prisons again and in Cell Number 1, haunted by rascal evil spirits; but I am not budging in my stance to expose any conspiracy aimed at stigmatising my character.
And if there is another need to resort to the madness tactic, I suggest they use the one coined by some cyber warriors years ago while I was living in New York describing my dismal mental condition then as being so deplorable that I had to feed on my own faeces and drank my urine. It didn’t work then but could be bought by the local population questioning nothing shown on TV or heard on the radio.

Finally, I ran into some old colleagues still serving in the GNA who to my surprise said that they were being trained in Senegal as special forces and after successfully completing the course were paid better salaries and deployed to the State House. According to one of them, 150 of them have already been trained including him. I was very happy to hear that because it seemed like the kind of reform the country needs. I had forgotten to ask him what the criteria of selecting them were, but I hope it is fairly done to maintain good morale.

More were identified to go for training with a strength of a battalion targeted.
We must get the security reform right this time. Thank you!

Samsudeen Sarr is a former commander of the Gambia National Army, author and diplomat. He now runs a motor vehicle service station in Kotu.

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