Ex-Gambia Interior Minister, Sheriff M. L. Gomez Says ‘Edward Singhateh Tortured, Attempted to Kill Me at Mile II Prisons’

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By EBRIMA G. SANKAREH, Editor-in-Chief

Barely two weeks following Ebrima Chongan’s damning allegations that Captain Edward David Singhateh, who continuous to represent Adama Barrow’s Government as ECOWAS Vice President brutally tortured him and several army officers held incommunicado during the July 22, 1994 coup that propelled army lieutenant Yaya Jammeh to power, another former army officer has come forward to corroborate Mr. Chongan’s chilling testimony.

The officer is no less than former army Adjutant, Lieutenant Sheriff M. L Gomez (pictured here), who spent 27 months behind the harrowing walls of Africa’s most dreaded Mile II Prisons under the brutal barbarity of probably, the most atrocious regime ever to hold grip on power in the entire West African sub region. Adjutant Gomez’s shocking narrative adds dimension to Mr. Chongan’s graphic revelations that the former Defence Minister under the junta of armed bandits that seized power from Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara’s Government were in fact, a bunch of megalomaniac drunks who hide under the cover of darkness to unleash terror on innocent prisoners some of whom are now talking.

Gomez, like Chongan, would later leave The Gambia for the UK obtaining a Master’s degree from London Metropolitan University. He returned after the transition to constitutional rule and for several years, served as Youth and Sports Minister and briefly as Interior Minister. Gomez now lives in Banjul from where he dispatches his reaction reproduced verbatim:

Adjutant Sheriff Gomez’s Version of Events at Mile II Central Prisons

“Ebrima Ismaila Chongan, LLB (Hons); LLM Int’l Law, is a friend and a brother, someone I hold in the highest regards and trust, for his exemplary qualities and exceptional uprightness. In an article he posted in The Gambia Echo Newspaper, dated 9th February 2018, he provided context and some perspective to the AFPRC Junta members’ depositions at the Janneh Commission whose attempt by all indication, despite the flowery and disingenuous bravery, was one of whitewashing recorded history. Haven seen the article this week, I could not but chip in, for I lived it.

When the Junta first entered the Mile II Prisons Security Wing on that tragic night of September 1994, I was sitting on my bed—a two-plank of red timber, on a two stilts of cement blocks at each end—Edward Singhateh, drunk to his forehead, came to my cell. I was at cell number 3 (left side) from the door.

Edward approached my cell shouting my name, ‘Adjutant Gomez, where are you? stand up’. I got up and he pointed his AK47 rifle at me. Having this foreboding feeling that this may be all the time Allah had destined for me, I stood up but probably knowing that I was doing my job and have done nothing wrong and that I hold a superior rank to all of them including Edward, I scolded him that this was the second time he is pointing his weapon at me and that it should stop.

Image result for edward Singhateh

Edward Singhateh and his Master in crimes, Yaya Jammeh

The first time was at Yundum Barracks, the morning of 22nd July 1994. I arrived at the Barracks, as usual, about 7.30am and as I reached the Guardroom (some 100m from the main gate then) I saw Yahya Jammeh and some soldiers in assorted military dresses including jujus – Jammeh, particularly, with cloth around his head and chewing another- I thought probably they are the “enemy forces” for the impending training exercise with the Americans. No sooner had I turned towards my office than soldiers rushed to me, seized my briefcase, arrested and led me to the Guardroom cells. I believed that this was the first major milestone of the coup. For as the Adjutant of the Battalion, it was my responsibility for the safekeeping of the armoury keys. Whilst I was adjusting to the surroundings of the cell, trying to come to terms that this is a mutiny and should be put down, I heard Edward, ‘where is the Adjutant? bring him out’. The moment I came out he started asking me the whereabouts of the Armoury keys? I was puzzled because the keys were in my briefcase and they’ve seized it from me already. I thought to myself that he was just trying his best to find some excuse to kill me. When I replied that it was in my bag, he opened fire at the top of my head because I could hear the bullets whizzed pass my head. This must have been the first shots of live ammo, for all intent and purpose, in the 1994 Coup d’état. He looked at me and said that he is not going to miss next time. I repeated that it was in my briefcase and they already have it. When the soldiers brought the briefcase, I noticed that the briefcase was torn apart, but the keys were still zipped in a pouch inside of it. Immediately as I opened it, the keys were snatched from my hands and rushed to the Armoury for the weapons and ammunitions.

He shouted back that I should shut up when he is talking to me. But then for me, apart from anything else, it seems my situation was, what should happen, will happen. Particularly when you know you are in these death row cells of not more than 1 x 2 meters, a peephole window and a metal door whose top is bugler proofing iron bars.

At that point someone called that he should let me be, that I will have my turn. I believed it was a deliberate attempt to distract him away from me. When he left my cell, they started the hand cuffing of detainees, dragging them out of their cells and subjecting them to gruesome beatings. I guess a show for all detainees to see what will happen to each of us. Then the executions took place. 3 of our colleagues dragged out, right in front of our eyes and executed, just like that. What went through us, this “Night of the 6th” (6th September 1994), is indescribably traumatic to ever explain accurately.

And as if this was not enough, as they were leaving, I could hear them shouting my name, Adjutant Gomez you are next; we are coming for you tomorrow. While they did not come back as threatened, for 45 days we lived with this pain and anxiety that, not only were 3 of us executed just like that but they were coming back for the rest of us the following night. It took 45 days of this ordeal to come to know/see that our colleagues were not executed after all. What worsened the situation was that we were held in absolute incommunicado as our detention Wing was closed to all prison officers except the one officer exclusively assigned to us. We only got relief when Captains Sana Sabally and Sadibou Hydara were arrested and brought in, to occupy the very Wing where Chongan, Cham and Jeng were secluded. I remained in detention for 27 months in total and released in October 1996. The rest is graphically chronicled in Ebrima Ismaila Chongan’s book.

Narrated by: SHERIFF GOMEZ

Former Gambia National Army Adjutant

Former Minister of Youths & Sports and Former Interior Minister

Banjul, The Gambia

 Editor’s Note:

The Gambia Echo salutes these former prisoners, the first victims of Yaya Jammeh’s tyrannical junta and sees this as a welcome development considering that over the years, many were mute for fear of reprisals or disappearance. We are more than willing to publish your testimonies and invite Edward Singhateh and Yankuba Touray to come forward and tell their own stories as well. 



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