EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: A 47-year-old woman, Thursday narrated tales of torture and other inhumane treatment allegedly meted on her by Gambia’s exiled former President Yahya Jammeh’s most feared intelligence agency –NIA- during her testimony before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
Fatou Camara said she was arrested and tortured at the NIA headquarters, following her arrest on suspicion of participating in an April 2016 electoral reform demonstration by members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) ahead of the December 2016 presidential elections.
She was arrested and detained alongside Fatoumata Jawara and UDP’s youth leader Solo Sandeng, who later died in custody. UDP alleged that Sandeng died after being tortured by the NIA and that two other party members have also died in custody later.
Narrating events leading to her arrest and subsequent torture at the NIA, Mrs Camara said she was going to a marriage ceremony when she saw a huge crowd approaching her direction and the police paramilitary officers started rounding up people in trucks.
She said at Ebo Town –a suburb of Serrekunda- one lady came and met her sitting and shouted at her and told the paramilitary that she [Fatou] was one of the protesters and that she is the ‘enemy of the state and a very bad person.’
“When the two paramilitary officers approached me, one of them asked me to get up and I got up. And the moment I stood up, the other one gave me a nasty slap until I sustain injuries and my ear started to bleed,” she recounted.
Mrs Camara said she and forty others were arrested and taken to the PIU headquarters in Kanifing and they were later transferred to the Mile 2 Central Prison in Banjul on the pretext that they were planning to stage a coup.
She said at Mile 2, she and others were chained on their necks and branded as criminals, saying she was fasting at the time and appealed for the security officers to allow her to break her fast, but they refused until when Fatoumatta Jawara interjected and that was the moment they gave her water to break her fast.
During the April 14 protest, the demonstrators waved banners in Serekunda, with slogans such as, “We need electoral reforms and freedom of speech.” Security forces broke up the protest and arrested many of the participants.
Members of the UDP party gathered again on April 16 to demand justice for Sandeng’s death and the release of other members of their party, where Police fired tear gas at them and arrested at least five executive members of the party, including its leader and Secretary General Ousainou Darboe.
Mrs Camara said at night, she and Fatoumatta Jawara were taken to the NIA premises and on arrival, they heard screaming. She recalled her face being covered with a bag when they arrived and taken into another room for questioning.
“One security personnel called on one Haruna and asked him to bring sticks and when he brought in the sticks, he told me to open my mouth. I closed my mouth and I refused to open it. He got hold of my throat and said I must open my mouth … when I refused to open my mouth, he asked them to get hold of my hands and legs. They beat me up… beat me…until I fainted. They lifted me up and took me out and poured cold water on me,” she said.
She added that she was thrown out in the grasses after beating her and when she regained consciousness, she started praising Allah but when they heard her, they came and started beating her again.
She said another man came and rescued her from them and placed her in one room where another man came and found her there and started kicking her. “I got up and I had to take a wheelchair to go to the rest room. When I went to rest room, all what I urinate was blood. For fifteen days, I was urinating blood. Then the doctor came and told me I should be injected otherwise my blood will be finished but I refused,” she concluded.