Ex-ADC Gano: “I Never Witnessed Rights Violation” though “Jammeh Lied To Patients”
In 2007, ex-Gambian president Yahya Jammeh shocked the world with his pronouncement that he has discovered a cure for HIV/Aids, hypertension, asthma and infertility. Patients Jammeh claimed to have sucessfully treated testified before the ongoing truth-telling commission (TRRC). Not only they have confirmed to be still uncured, but their health condition got aggravated by the Jammeh Presidential Alternative Treatment Program. The human rights of these patients were violated as they lost their dignity to multiple unconsented television coverages that showed them naked to the world.
Yet, former ADC to president Jammeh who witnessed the whole episode for 18 months, Lamin Gano, defiantly said in a rough and marathon testimony at the TRRC that he never committed a human rights violation nor did he ever saw any person committing a human rights violation. Not even Jammeh.
Gano’s statement came after he admitted that he was a witness to the fact that Yahya Jammeh lied to patients, including his [Gano] mother.
Gano who claimed to be the first high-profile resignation from the history of Gambia Armed Forces in May 2013 first described Jammeh as temperamental and unpredictable, words he visibly regretted using after the seat became uncomfortable as he struggled to defend his former boss. In fact, Gano described his relationship with Jammeh as ‘very very good.’
Gano would not say that Jammeh’s cure was a hoax
As an ADC to the curer (Jammeh), Gano claimed that he had no reason to doubt Jammeh’s ability to treat patients, which made him to hurriedly take his own mother and cousin for registration under the treatment.
But the former ADC told the TRRC Tuesday that Jammeh failed his mother and cousin. He only accepted the term ‘Jammeh lied to patients’ after succumbing to the Lead Counsel Essa Faal’s squeezing pressure that Jammeh actually lied to his patients.
“I will accept [that he lied] but I will prefer to use the word ‘fail.’ I agreed [he lied] based on that definition,” Gano told the Commission.
Gano also disputed Jammeh’s claim that he is capable of treating his patients within three days. In his rejection of the claim, he adduced that at the time of him leaving the job after 18 months, he left patients being treated there. “That was not true”.
The former Inspector General of Gambia Armed Forces would not also admit to the TRRC that the whole Jammeh treatment show was a hoax. Whether he is surprised that some of those people who were considered treated and discharged during his time as ADC are still living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases, Gano responded that he’s not surprised. But he insisted that he cannot say if it was a hoax.
“Whether it’s a hoax, it’s only Jammeh who can tell but yes, it has failed, it did not succeed. I really don’t know the motive why it was done, whether it was based on good intention or drama I really don’t know. Absolutely, it did not work because my mom and my cousin are good examples,” he told the TRRC.
Gano also admitted that the concoctions that were given to the patients were in different combinations and kinds that have all the possibility to cause instant diarrhoea, as claimed by most of the narrations of different patients.
When he started his treatment, Jammeh described the so-called discovery of cure as a major breakthrough. Because of Jammeh’s claim, The Gambia became the attention of the world. When questioned by Aljazeera at the time whether he needed to consult the World Health Organization (WHO) on the breakthrough given that HIV/AIDS is globally and scientifically regarded as cureless disease, Jammeh responded that ‘if Coca Cola is not revealing their secret, he is not also revealing his secret to anyone.’ Gano confirms to the TRRC that Jammeh’s treatment claim “has no scientific basis”.
Several witnesses, mainly the patients Jammeh treated and regarded them as being cured, have concluded their testimonies yesterday (Monday). At the time, most of them opted to buy into Jammeh’s claim due to their state of frustration by the disease and high level of stigmatization and wanted to go through any means to have themselves cured. But they regretted it; some said their situation got worse. They also revealed that they were paraded on television without their consent.
Despite these facts, Gano who was Jammeh’s aid during the treatment process said he never committed or saw any person committing a human rights violation. “I had the most successful military career ever and it was also peaceful. I had never witnessed a human rights violation; I have never been part of it. I have never met people discussing that we are going to commit or we have committed it.”
The description of Jammeh Gano regretted
After several years working as a member of the Gambia Armed Forces, including his 18-month long attachment to Jammeh, Gano admitted that anything could have happened to him as Jammeh could arrest or detain him because of his decision to resign.
“The staff at the State House who were present when president Jammeh was approving my resignation, told me that Jammeh said he was giving me only three months and I’d be coming back begging him for a job. Between that – from the submission of my resignation to the approval I was like getting a lot of messages from my colleagues some of whom are senior members of Gambia Armed Forces trying to persuade me to withdraw my resignation or to travel and send my resignation outside of the country” Lamin Gano told the TRRC.
Asked by counsel as to why such suggestions, he responded that, “I think it’s based on their knowledge of the temperament of Jammeh, his unpredictability.” He said his colleagues were concerned about his safety in the hands of the former dictator.
“It was all based on the unpredictability of Jammeh because he could have seen the resignation anyhow. He could have approved of it like the way he did if he was in a good mood. But if he is in a ‘Serer’ mood, it could have been totally different. He had all the options. He could have followed it with witch-hunting trying to arrest, detain or whatever. Over the time we’ve all witnessed his erratic decisions and actions. We have all witnessed that in the past.”
Further into his testimony, he started sugar-coating his own choice of words, implying that ‘temperament and unpredictability’ have positive connotations. However, the lead counsel put it to him that these words are negative and not positive characteristics.
What shocked the audience in Gano’s testimony is his insistence that he never knew about Jammeh’s evil deeds until he started hearing from witnesses at the TRRC. This, despite Gano being an ADC to Jammeh for almost two years.
“There were incidents before…, well before the TRRC started, that we the members of Gambia Armed Forces and the general public were all aware of”, Gano said. But he added that, “Jammeh was not necessarily a devil.”