By Ebrima G. Sankareh, Editor-in-Chief
Barely two months after The Gambia’s most feared despot, Yaya Jammeh, was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea, some of his most loyal lieutenants at the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA), have been arrested, charged with felony murder for the most brutal killing of opposition strongman, Solo Sandeng, and now remanded in custody awaiting trial all after their brief appearance before the Banjul Magistrates’ Courts Thursday.
The accused are disgraced NIA Spymaster, Yankuba Badjie (seen here with President Barrow), ex-Operations Director, Saihou Omar Jeng, former Deputy Director, Louis Gomez as well as Agents: Haruna Susso, Yusupha Jammeh, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Baboucarr Sallah together with Lamin Lang Sanyang, the disgraceful agency’s medic.
Bespectacled spymaster,Y.Badjie & Disgraced Operations Director, Saihou Omar Jeng, remanded at Mile II Central Prisons with 6 others.
The nine accused former Jammeh-era disgraced spies are charged with two criminal counts of conspiracy to commit murder and murder of opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) Youth Leader, Mr. Solo Sandeng on April 16, 2016. Sandeng; a firebrand opposition element, had taken to the streets on April 14 in a peaceful march demanding electoral reforms for The Gambia’s December 1, 2016 Presidential election which, ironically, he could not live to witness. To date, no one besides these thugs know where precisely Sandeng’s remains were buried; an all too familiar scene under Yaya Jammeh’s authoritarian regime where Cabinet ministers (Ousman Koro Ceesay and Captain Sadibou Haidara), journalists: (Deyda Hydara, Omar Barrow and Chief Ebrima Manneh) as well as numerous others, were brutally murdered and or disappeared, mostly under the cover of darkness when agents under hallucinogenic drugs are on the rampage.
A 2-page document captioned “Criminal Charge Sheet in The Banjul Magistrates Court”, dated 23rd February, 2017, and signed by a Prosecuting officer on behalf of the Inspector General of Police, makes damning allegations against Badjie and colleagues; atavistic agents of doom whose sadistic barbarity is comparable only to Pol Pot’s Cambodia or Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada’s Uganda where, brutes like Brigadier Isaac Maliyamungu wasted no time in liquidating perceived political enemies.
Count I of the indictment alleges: “Statement of Offence: Conspiracy to commit felony contrary to section 368 of the Criminal Code Cap 10:01 volume III, Laws of The Gambia, 2009. Particulars of Offence: Yankuba Badjie and 8 others on or about the 15th of April, 2016, at NIA headquarters, in the City of Banjul, The Republic of The Gambia, you conspired amongst yourselves and took part in the murder of Mr. Solo Sandeng, (and) thereby committed an offence.”
Count II of the indictment alleges: “Statement of Offence: Murder contrary to Section 187 of the Criminal Code Cap 10:01, Volume III, Laws of The Gambia, 2009. Particulars of Offence: Yankuba Badjie and 8 others on or about the 15th of April, 2016, at NIA headquarters, in the City of Banjul, The Republic of The Gambia, you jointly murdered one Mr. Solo Sandeng, (and) thereby committed an offence.”
Under Gambian law, the crime of murder is punishable by death and unless the new government abolishes the death penalty as part of their truth and reconciliation agenda, the probability of Yankuba Badjie and co.’s conviction and subsequently facing the death penalty are more probable than otherwise.
Crucially still, given the degree of anger Solo Sandeng and numerous other coldblooded murders and state-orchestrated disappearances perpetrated by these Jammeh minions have ignited among Gambians, it is difficult to predict anything short of ominous.
Paradoxically, what the Yankuba Badjie and co. case also highlights, is that contrary to the many Jammeh critics who mostly blame his ethnic Jola officers for the murders and disappearances of Gambians, we are now face to face with reality; that in fact, members of our major ethnic groups are accused of complicity in this most foul murder of an innocent and patriotic citizen in the due execution of his constitutionally protected civic right.
Thus Mutatis Mutandis, the Barrow government is up for many surprises as they proceed to unearth the massive criminal enterprise that Yaya Jammeh and his lieutenants have consolidated over the past two decades; an edifice so massive that in the end, we may solicit international jurists and forensics to help piece together the pieces of this complex jigsaw puzzle.
For now though, we wait with hopeful anticipation that those who murdered Solo Sandeng will face justice to end impunity in Gambia.
Not only that, we ask Adama Barrow and his government act as quickly as possible and arrest Captain Yankuba Touray and Edward David Singhateh and have Peter Singhateh extradited from Scotland so these triplets of evil, will also be indicted for the cold-blooded murder of young Finance minister, Ousman Koro Ceesay. On that fateful Friday, June 23, 1995, the 29-year old Finance minister was beaten with a baseball bat at Captain Touray’s house, and shot in the head and even as he appealed to his murderers, they continued to insult and pummel him until he could no longer breathe . Thereafter, his remains were carried in his official Mercedes destined to the rugged woods of Farato where the car was sprinkled with cans of gasoline and then set ablaze as Yaya Jammeh attended his maiden summit meeting of the defunct OAU in Addis Ababa.
An eyewitness to the actual planning and execution of the most macabre murder scene had revealed to The Gambia Echo that President Yaya Jammeh himself told Edward Singhateh to eliminate Ousman Koro Ceesay while he was in Addis Ababa and thank God, we are all alive and The Gambia has changed and if the change is not merely for cosmetic reasons, its significance must begin to reverberate in every corner of the country from Banjul to Koina and Barra to Farafenni.
In like manner, we expect the indictment of former Interior minister, Ousman Sonko, Sana Manjang, Bora Colley, Bai Lowe in the cold-blooded murder of journalist Deyda Hydara.
Likewise, we still need Edward Singhateh to explain the grim circumstances of Captain Sadibou Haidara’s death behind the harrowing walls of Mile II State Central Prisons when he was Vice Chairman of the despicable Armed Forces Provincial Ruling Council; the junta that tattered The Gambia of its democratic credentials and plunged us into the disaster that we are.
So yes! While the arrest and indictment of Badjie and colleagues is a welcome development, all lives matter and all those murdered and disappeared out of sheer impunity must be investigated and their culprits brought to book and the sooner the better.