A Gambian petty trader has accused the personnel of Gambia’s police Intervention Unit (PIU) of false arrest, abduction, kidnapping, torture, robbery, and false imprisonment, the Freedom Newspaper can reveal. Mr. Saidibou Bojang, who is in his early forties, made the allegations during an interview with Freedom Radio Gambia. Mr. Bojang is a resident of Gunjur, Kombo South. He was on a legitimate business errand in Kartong, when armed PIU officers arrested dozens of Kartong residents in the wake of the anti-sand mining protest organized by the villagers of Kartong. Bojang earns his living by selling second hand clothing. He is well known in Kombo South and its surrounding communities, especially in Kartong. He was at the wrong place; at the wrong time, when Jammeh’s rogue PIU officers manhandled him.
Explaining his ordeal, Mr. Bojang recounted that the anti-sand mining protest found him in Kartong on the day in question. He said as soon as he noticed an altercation between the village’s youths and the miners, he decided to leave the village. He first walked to a nearby shop in the neighbourhood to entrust his merchandise to the shopkeeper. He then tried to exit out of the village. On his way out, Bojang, said he met some armed paramilitary police stationed at the entrance of the village. He handed his identity card to the PIU officers and later told them that he was in Kartong to sell second hand clothing.
According to Mr. Bojang, who is a former auxiliary Nurse at the Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul, for a period of ten years, before venturing into self-employment, the armed paramilitary police then grabbed and throw him on the ground. The officers beat the hell out of him before throwing him on a waiting truck. Bojang sustained serious injuries on his body as a result of the brutal torture he endured in the hands of his captive PIU officers.
“I was subjected to systematic torture by the personnel of the paramilitary police. They forced me to the ground and started kicking and beating me. Blood was oozing all over my body. I tried to explain to them that I was not part of the protesters, but that never stop them from beating me. I was nearly torture to coma,” Bojang, who spent ten days under state custody told Freedom Radio Gambia.
“To add insult to injury, the PIU officers, also robbed me, while I was under their custody in Kartong. They stripped my pockets and took the cigarettes I had under my possession at the material time. I was also robbed off my attaya (a local Gambian brew). Almost everyone arrested in Kartong was tortured. The Chief of Kombo South, Mr. Janneh, tried to explain to the PIU by telling hem that I was not a resident of Kartong, but the PIU responded to him, by saying that they have been given an order to execute. The Councilor of the village Lamin Jambang Jammeh also tried to talk sense to them, but they ignored him. I was mercilessly tortured. Everyone was tortured. A lady was among those arrested by the PIU,” Mr. Bojang added.
Sadibou Bojang went on to explain that he and his co accused persons, were later transported to the Brusibi police station, where one Inspector Sowe, obtained a cautionary statement from him. Mr. Bojang tried to prove his innocence to officer Sowe.
“After explaining my story to Inspector Sowe, he told me, to be calmed.. In that, he (Sowe) believes that nothing will come out of the case. That, at the end of the day, we would be released. Prior to our arrival at the Brusibi station, the IGP Yankuba Sonko, was there the previous night with his team of officers, processing the first batch of the arrested residents of Kartong. The IGP, was at the station until 3:00 AM, obtaining statements from the detainees,” he said.
Mr. Bojang and co were later transferred to the Yundum police station, before being moved to the Brikama police. He said he was never served food in all the police stations he was held. Loved ones normally bring them food at the sation, he added.
“We spent about thirty minutes at the Brikama police station before being taken to court. The Brikama police is one of the dirtiest police stations in The Gambia. There are bedbugs in the cells. The station stinks. We could hardly breathe,” said Mr. Bojang.
In their first court appearance, Mr. Bojang, who was listed as “accused number one” in the police indictments against the Kartong protesters, was remanded at the mosquito infested mile two prison together with the other accused persons. Bojang said he was held at a cell where murderers and other high profile inmates were kept.
“I have been treated as a criminal. I haven’t broken any laws. I was detained illegally. I was in Kartong to sell second clothing, and in the process, I got arrested illegally. I am urging the police to issue an apology and compensate me D4 million dalasi, or else, I will sue them to court for false arrest, false imprisonment, kidnapping, torture and abduction. I will consult my lawyer Lamin J Darboe, for possible legal action against the police, if my demands are not met,” said the Gunjur born native.
Mr. Sadibou Bojang used the interview to thank Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh for his intervention in freeing them from police custody. He also said he would be happy if Mr. Jammeh can use his office and look into the conduct of the rogue PIU agents.
“I am a Gambian. I have Gambia at my heart. I am not from Senegal. I am not from any other country other than The Gambia. I could have travel through the back way and pursue greener pastures in Europe, like some of youths are doing, but I decided to stay here to earn a decent living. I am not bothering anyone. I do not have criminal record. Why is the PIU criminalizing me? The President should step in and stop the police brutality taking place in this country. Almost everyone arrested by the PIU was tortured. I am asking for monetary compensation and an apology from the police, or else, I will take legal action against them,” Mr. Bojang remarked.
According to Mr. Bojang, the sacked Lands Minister Momodou Aki Bayo and the Speaker of the House Abdoulie Bojang, came to Kartong, to address them shortly after their release from custody. But Bojang said he was not the least pleased with Aki Bayo’s conduct.
“Momodou Aki Bayo, instead of trying to talk to us with respect he started threatening us. These are the type of people creating problems in this country. The IGP should be fired too. He did not do his job right. I expect him to thoroughly vet charges before filing them. I am a victim of police brutality, and oppression,” Bojang alleged.
The Inspector General of police Yankuba Sonko, could not be reached for immediate comment at the time of going to press.
Written By A Staff Writer