By Omar Bah
A Gambian woman is demanding an investigation into the mysterious death of husband who reportedly died in a Gabonese vessel two weeks ago. The woman suspected her husband’s death was not natural.
Ramatoulie Trawally said her husband, Samba Saidy, 39, was a seaman/sailor working with a vessel called Hawa, registered in Togo by a Gambian Saidina Dukureh.
Saidy reportedly worked in the cargo ship for more than four years, sailing between Togo and Gabon until his mysterious death on 1st September 2021.
However, his family was only informed about his death on 4th September and he was buried on 6th September, 2021.
In her first public remarks since her husband’s death two weeks ago, the widow said she wanted a “thorough investigation” to provide “answers about how this was able to happen.”
According to her, a crew member called her sister-in-law to inform her of Saidy’s death. “However, and strangely enough, my husband did not call me five days prior to the day he was supposed to have died which never happened. This is very rare because normally the vessel only takes four days between Togo and Gabon. So them saying they could not reach us on phone a good three days after my husband’s supposed death is funny and hard to comprehend,” she said.
Madam Trawally said the family was informed that her husband had complained of headache and the captain gave him some medicine to drink but he died later in the vessel.
“They buried him without my approval and there was no doctor’s report about the cause of his death and when one of the family members in Gabon wanted to see the dead body, he was denied access while the captain, who gave my husband medication, refused to talk to the family members,” Madam Trawally alleged.
She said her husband had told her that his boss owed him some money but whenever he reminded him about it, he would ask him to wait.
“However, the last time I spoke with him, he told me with or without the money he was going to come home. I remember we last communicated on 22nd August 2021, through WhatsApp and he didn’t complain of any sickness, all that he told me was upon arrival in Gabon, he would inform me about his date and time of arrival in The Gambia. He even sent me photos of the items he bought for the kids and me,” she said.
She said the vessel owner had promised to call her back after an autopsy is carried out but he never did and when she tried calling him back, he did not pick and even when he picked, he would tell her to stop disturbing him.
“When I last spoke to the vessel owner, I confronted him about the money he owes my husband, he said he was going to pay the money to my husband’s brother in Dakar but has not done that until today,” she added.
She further explained that her brother-in-law had hired a special doctor for autopsy but his efforts were undermined.
The secretary general of the Gambia Sailors’ Association, Abdou Sanyang confirmed receiving news of Mr Saidy’s death and the decision to bury him in Gabon but he was quick to say that his association has insisted that the body should have been repatriated to Banjul.
Mr Sanyang however said he understands that Saidy’s family had consented for him to be buried in Gabon. This, Sanyang argued, should not have happened without thorough investigation to determine cause of death.
Vessel owner reacts
Speaking to The Standard from his base in Gabon, the owner of the vessel Saidina Dukureh said he was informed about Saidy’s death three days after it happened. “Immediately they informed me about it, I went to the Gambian community in Gabon and informed them. It is the Gambian community who contacted the wife back home and informed her about what happened,” he said. However, Mr Dukureh said when the ship arrived from the sea, Mr Saidy’s body had already started decomposing and there was no way they could have brought it back to The Gambia. “I contacted my brother Yaya Dukureh in The Gambia and informed him about what happened and asked him to visit the family,” he said.
Mr Dukureh said after his brother spoke to Mr Saidy’s family, he informed him that the family had accepted what happened in good faith and had planned for him to be buried in Gabon.
“The family told my brother that when we were burying him, we should take pictures and videos and that is exactly what we did. Gabonese doctors have also taken the autopsy and immediately they are ready with the report, I will share with the Gambia Maritime Agency,” he said. He said the captain of the ship told him he found Saidy dead in his room on the ship.
On the claims that he owes the late sailor money, Dukureh said: “When I reported the matter to the Gabon maritime, they asked me how many years Samba had worked with me and I told them four years, so they asked me to pay to his family 4 million CFA. I have forwarded the document prepared by the Gabon Maritime to the Gambia Maritime and they promised to get back to me when they finish reviewing it,” he said. Dukureh admitted that he owed Mr Saidy three months’ salary of CFA 600, 000. “I am just waiting for the Gambia Maritime to revert back after which I will send the money for onward delivery to the family,” he said.
Gambian Embassy in Nigeria
When contacted for comments, the Gambian Ambassador in Nigeria Papa Njie, said: “The Gambian community in Gabon contacted the embassy to inform us that a Gambian was found dead in a vessel and his body has started decomposing and that they are working with the vessel owner to see whether they could bring the body to Banjul. If not, then they will have to bury him there. That was the last time they got in touch with us.”
Asked about the embassy’s position on the matter, Njie said:
“We don’t have a position on it because the Gambian community had just contacted us to inform us. The shippers should have contacted us directly, immediately after the incident but apparently when the young man died, they didn’t contact anybody and because of that, we were not able to get clear information about what happened. So we cannot have a position on something that we have no idea about.”