Perhaps neither the PIU personnel in uniform knew she was three months pregnant when they stood over and administered heavy beatings and kicks from their hard boots on her body with their batons.
Now, Wurry (not her real name) is still nursing bone pains around her waist five years after she miscarried her pregnancy due to the effects of this fateful day. She also lost her marriage as a result, as usual in The Gambia, on the receiving end of the loss by her husband. The TRRC medical team is paying for her treatment as she could not afford the high medical bills and look after her kids the husband left in her care.
Her abode was not the least ideal as she lives in a family compound since her divorce. The locally made sofas made from foam and velvet cover from a corner wood workshop are worn out. The plastic, thin carpet on the floor is torn in most parts. She welcomed this reporter to sit in the sitting room and ready to answer questions about the incident that occurred five years ago.
To Wurry, the mandate of the TRRC should include a decent living and good education for her kids who she is raising to become progressive citizens of The Gambia tomorrow. As our interview progressed, two little girls, about seven and six years, walked in on us. Wurry stopped her narration. She doesn’t want her kids to understand the trauma she undergoes. She has to be strong for them.
She was another victim of May 9th 2016. Her experience started after the UDP Executive Members’ arrest and trial. Three days to the judgement, she ran into an incident with the security around PIU Kanifing barracks.
How it all happened
First, Wurry noticed some changes in security situations around the Denton Bridge, with an increased presence of armed military, Immigration and the PIU personnel. After weeks of trial, she now has a good sense of what security looks like around Banjul. On this day, they were asked about their national IDs and where they were heading to.
“I told them I was going to see my dentist for an appointment. They diverted our vehicle to the Bond Road instead of the usual route through the highway into Banjul. On that road, they stopped our vehicle at another checkpoint, disembarked the passengers and demanded the driver turn back to SerreKunda. We were left to walk on foot from Bund Road to Banjul,” she recounted.
“At the courthouse, they said the court room was filled to capacity and that we cannot enter,” she said, describing the court space as equal to her sitting room where the interview was conducted.
As they chanted outside the courtroom, “We need Solo Sandeng dead or alive”, a scuffle with security ensued and one of the old aged supporters from Younna, fell down. Outside the courtroom, up to four boulders piled on each other. During the scuffle, she claimed these were pushed against them by the PIU guards and landed on the old man’s leg, breaking it into three pieces.
The sittings on each day of the trail, especially towards the judgement, gets tenser. On this particular day, their vehicle had armed military and PIU escorts from Banjul after the tense reactions that nearly resulted in a fight at the court premises.
“They stopped our commercial vehicle just after Bond Road and asked us to change into a sand-tipper truck from there. Some agreed but others including myself did not. We had another push and pull there until we reached a compromise. Some of the supporters joined the truck but adamant ones like myself were left to continue in our commercial one,” she said.
Just around Jeshwang, the truck stopped and passengers on board alighted to walk the rest of the journey to Westfield on foot. They walked proudly, chanting solidarity songs like “Freedom for our leaders” and demanding “Solo Sandeng dead or alive”. Just before the PIU gate, they were stopped again.
“They demand that we stop walking and use vehicles as if we were marching without permit. Another brawl nearly ensued but some compromised to divert their route to Baa Ousainou’s Pipeline home through Iceman junction. Some even diverted around Jimpex when they anticipated some trouble ahead due to the attitude of security in Banjul on that day,” Wurry said.
She was among those who continued to walk and just a few meters from the PIU junction, were shot with tear gas canisters. Then, chaos again.
“I ran but could not run far due to my weight and the panic that engulfed me. I stepped on a boulder on the roadside and took the next step into the CFAO car sales depot, I got a heavy hit from a baton on my hip. I fell,” the almost 200 pounds lady recalled.
Again, they were masked men, armed with riot gears and guns. Two of them were standing over her and beating on the right side, from her head down to her feet, as she lay on the left.
“They were hurling insults and asking why we were wearing the solidarity T-shirts bearing our Kalama revolution. I couldn’t move and just took the pain of the beatings, breathing heavily and my screams drowned in pain,” she added.
As she went motionless, they left her and moved on to others. She got up and ran upstairs. The security man on guard at the CFAO went out to call for more men to come and show them where we hid on the top floor of their building. His colleague, an old guardman, stooped them from trespassing the property.
“That was how I got saved. Thanks to the old man’s intervention, we were saved but my colleague later came down to pick up our gourd spoon, shoes and bags left behind, she got arrested and was among those who were detained at PIU,” she recalled.