I am a Great Marabout – Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana Boasts after Mysterious Escape Claim
Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana, a controversial Islamic scholar has narrated his ordeals in the hands of the torture squad of ex-president Yahya Jammeh, claiming the second attempt to arrest him was met with his mysterious disappearance from the sight of his arrestors in August 2012.
Prior to this particular encounter, Ba Kawsu was arrested in May 2012 and detained at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul for nine days. He claimed to have been subjected to severe torture in two nights of his detention period.
“On the 18th of May 2012, [Imam] Abdoulie Fatty in his sermon at State House said Ba Kawsu should be arrested for his preaching. I was arrested on May 31st and was released May 8th. The people who came to arrest me were led by Yankuba Badgie, former Director General of NIA.
“I was beaten and Jammeh broke my finger,” he said.
When asked he knew that Jammeh participated in the torture session until he broke his finger. He said it was Ousman Sonko, former Interior Minister who said it after he left the country for Europe where he is currently being investigated over atrocities, he allegedly committed.
“They [torturers] were plenty and it was in the dark so I couldn’t recognise anyone. The torturers could be up to ten people and they were using horse pipes and sticks to beat me up. They also used a plastic bag over my head and some strangled me.
“They would lay you down on your stomach while they stand on different parts of your body so one can’t move. This happened around 3am in the morning. The beating happened twice during my detention and I will be taken from my cell.”
He explained that they have removed his gown and the head cover off his body before the torture although he was not stripped naked.
“The first day, they used the stick to beat me up. The second day they used the horse pipes. I always surrender myself during beatings. I will be laughing when they would be beating me and this surprised them throughout.
However, he said he sustained general body pain and his finger was also broken. According to the person who broke his finger, he also had his presidency seat broken, referring to the end of Jammeh’s leadership.
He was later bailed but was regularly reporting every week for until his re-arrest, two months later.
“On the 15th of August, I was rearrested when I was still reporting on bail. They came in huge numbers and were led by Yankuba Badjie. They appeared frightening this time as they surrounded my compound. I was about to lead Isha prayer when they came and some of their men even joined the congregation.
“I told him [Yankuba], so today, you want to kill me and he said no, but he was called to come and arrest me. I sought permission from him to perform ablution and he granted it. My talibehs asked me and I told them that I was invited to the NIA,” he told the TRRC.
“When I entered the room, the last word I heard from them was leave him, he was going to take permission from his father. There was a long silence for about 10 minutes. When Yankuba couldn’t bear the wait, he went to my father who told them that I was in the mosque but Yankuba disputed that, saying I had already left the mosque.
“That was the time they conducted searches everywhere but they couldn’t see me. Yankuba then said he had disappeared. God has always been there for me because I could have died since the first arrest when they tortured me.”
He boasts up. “I am a great marabout! A great marabout! It’s a small thing for a marabout to disappear from the sights. We are great marabouts!” he emphasised with seemingly endless smiles on his face.
He said the NIA operatives had stopped seeing him when he stepped his foot in the middle of his compound.
“Yankuba went back to inform Jammeh that I had disappeared. Jammeh ordered Mendy to come. He came and but he too realised that I had disappeared. Mendy then told my parents that Jammeh sent him to apologise to Ba Kawsu as the day was ‘Layla tul kadr’ (27th night of the Ramadan) and that I should refrain from referencing them in my preaching.”
Ba Kawsu recalled granting an interview to Taranga FM radio advising the president to avoid the attacks on scholars. He was high-marked again. This time, according to him, he was threatened that his name will be written in the ‘black book’ when he is arrested. He translated this threat to mean that he will be killed.
According to him, he learned through his brothers and friends that he will be targeted at the borders should he try to leave the country. Ba Kawsu insinuated that he disappeared at the border from the sights of the security officers and entered Casamance, southern region of Senegal where he lived in exile until return years later when he benefited from the general amnesty by Jammeh.
Imam Fofana has a long history of conflict with the Supreme Islamic Council from the time he said he disclosed his intention to vie for presidency of the Council. He said this led to enmity between him and the leaders including Imam Muhammad Lamin Touray, the president of SIC and Abdoulie Fatty, imam of State House at the time who was also the head of ‘dawah’ at the Council.
He was accused of directing verbal hatred comments in his preaching against some tribes including the Jola, where the former president hailed from. He was therefore banned from conducting preaching on the radio.
He also held a completely different view on the mode moon sighting in the country. Contrary to the SIC belief that Gambia should go with Mecca; Ba Kawsu believes that people should determine their own dates for observing festive prayers by sighting the moon on their own.
“After the ban, I wrote a letter to the President and that was why the next meeting was held. I told him that I do preaching all over the country and now that they banned me, people who follow my preaching will no longer be accessing that. I indicated that this was a public interest. This was why he responded for all of us to meet including the SIC,” he said.
At this meeting, the imam said Abdoulie Fatty told the gathering there that they are not in conflict with Ba Kawsu about religious matters, instead his hate speech against the Jola tribe. Ba Kawsu said this was what made Jammeh so infuriated.
However, in the end, Jammeh ordered that the ban be lifted.