Abdoulie Samba, an ex-police officer and the PRO of Jambanjelly Village Development Committee (VDC), explained their encounter with security personnel, saying they had a borehole that was in existence since the Jawara era. Initially, he said, it was made for cattle but they later installed five stand pipes for the villagers.
“Another project was later brought by the Department of Water Resources and a new borehole was drilled for the village. The water wasn’t enough but when former President Yahya Jammeh took power and held a meeting at our village, we appealed to him for more water and he drilled a borehole for us.”
Dwelling on the confrontation between the villagers and the authorities, Mr. Samba continued that a group of people among whom included NAWEC staff and some paramilitaries wanted to dismantle their borehole. The witness stated that they called for a meeting and discussed the matter, adding they met with Chief Alhaji Janneh, Hon. Paul Gomez and the Department of Water Resources in Banjul to discuss the matter.
“We were made to understand that the president gave order for the borehole to be taken to Jokadou. When the paramilitaries came to interfere, I led the villagers and the paramilitaries were 100 meters close to us. The paramilitaries never engage the villagers before starting their malpractice. That was the moment the village youths started throwing stones at the paramilitary officers and at that moment, I couldn’t control the crowd.”
“When the soldiers arrived, one fired a bullet onto the road which later bounced back and wounded five of our people.”
He testified that people were arrested in their homes and even in traffic. He added the arrestees were taken to Brikama Police Station before they transferred to Police Intervention Unit (PIU) headquarters in Kanifing. He said former IGP late 13 Badjie gave the order for the torture, saying they were later remanded at Mile 2 Prison.
Lamin Darboe, also a resident of the village indicated that the meeting with Jammeh was a political rally, which they asked for support in having another borehole. He told the commission that after Jammeh’s support to install the borehole, their member of Parliament Paul Gomez told their alkalo that the old borehole would be dismantled and taken to another village.
“We insisted because our old borehole was better than the one given by Jammeh. We later realised that the paramilitaries were planning to come in our village, then we decided to meet and discuss on the approach we were to take. When the paras arrived, they threw tear gas. It became a total mixed-up, and when they realised that the crowd of the village was bigger than theirs, they withdrew and called for military reinforcement.”
The witness said they spent five days at PIU before taken to a court in Brikama and got remanded at the Mile 2 Security Wing.
Saikou Bayo also explained that when he heard the noise, he went there and realised that the security wanted to remove the borehole and there was a push and pull. He said the security threw tear gas at the villagers, adding when the soldiers arrived, they asked them to disperse but they refused.
“That was the moment they opened fire on the road and people dispersed because we thought they were going to kill us. Those arrested were taken around the graveyard and beaten mercilessly.”
“Almost 50 people were arrested and taken to Brikama Police Station. In Kanifing, we were dumped and beaten for three days with cold water poured on us.”
The witnesses stated that during their detention at Mile 2 Prison, the prison wardens received an order from Jammeh to release them after 21 days of detention.