Kaba Bajo Admits Failing ‘Brother’ Koro Ceesay
Former Interior Minister, Lamin Kaba Bajo has admitted he failed Ousman Koro Ceesay by being sloppy and negligent in investigating the ex-Finance Minister’s mysterious death.
Koro died mysteriously in June 1995 after seeing off Yahya Jammeh, the Chairman of the then AFPRC military junta to the airport. His charred remains were found in his burnt-out official Mercedes Benz around Jambur village. The military junta announced he died in a car accident but that information was later rubbished by multiple sources who alleged foul play. Over the last few months, several Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission witnesses testified that Koro was in fact bludgeoned to death by members of the ruling military council, including Edward Singhatey, and others. On Thursday, former police investigator Muhammed L.K. Bojang told the commission that President Yahya Jammeh ordered the discontinuation of the investigation into Koro’s mysterious death.
Bajo, the Interior Minister at the time, told the TRRC Tuesday that he was away with Jammeh in Addis Ababa for an OAU Summit when the then president broke the news of Koro’s death to him and other delegates.
“I was trying to unpack and settled down in my room when I was called to his (Jammeh’s) room. When we gathered, he told us that he had received a very bad news from home that the Minister of Finance died in a car crash along Jambur road. He said the situation was being further investigated, that the Vice Chairman (Edward Singhatey) and others were handling the issue. He said the vehicle was burnt.”
Asked by the Lead Counsel Essa Faal if Jammeh cried, Bajo responded, “I didn’t see him dropping any tears or wiping his face but I could see his face was somber.”
Having arrived in The Gambia from the Summit, Bajo said he joined Jammeh’s delegation on the 1st July, 2005 to pay condolences to Koro’s family. “He (Jammeh) assured them (the family) that the matter would be investigated.”
Bajo argued that he took the matter seriously, adding that he instructed the then Inspector General of Police, Gibril Joof to investigate.
“I have instructed and I have followed up. All I could have done was to make sure that the matter was investigated.”
When Faal put to him that Joof told the TRRC investigators that no one instructed him to launch an investigation, Bajo responded that he’d be surprised to hear that. However, in his written TRRC statement read to him by Faal, Bajo stated: “During the cause of police investigations, I could not put pressure on the police regarding this case because I was also assuming that the incident was an accident.” He admitted that he didn’t exert pressure on the IGP but denied Faal’s argument that he didn’t take the matter seriously.
In the same written statement read by Faal, Bajo said “regarding why there was no investigations, I believe it’s just out of negligence, but I have no reason not to proceed with the investigations, nor did I instruct anyone to discontinue the investigations. It was a lapse on my side and on my ministry. Koro was not only a colleague. He was more than that. He was a brother.”
“You accept responsibility that you were negligent?,” asked Faal.
“Yes,” Bajo replied.
“Do you accept that you failed Koro, your brother?,” Faal quizzed further.
“Yes,” Bajo answered.
Asked if he knew that his military junta colleagues killed Koro, Bajo said he had no evidence at the time to believe that Koro was killed. He told the commission that he believed it was an accident.
Bajo consistently denied Faal’s suggestion that he didn’t pursue the investigation into Koro’s death because he had a special relationship with President Jammeh. Though he accepted receiving several favours from Jammeh, he argued he was not loyal to him.
Bajo and Jammeh were both enlisted in the Gambia National Gendarmerie on the same day in 1984. Following the amalgamation of Gendarme, the two moved police and the military respectively.
On the issue of the July 1994 military coup, Bajo, the Presidential Guards Commander at the time, testified that he had no knowledge about the coup prior to joining ex-President Sir Dawda Jawara to attend the OAU Summit in Tunisia and then for a vacation in the UK before the coup. But in a written statement he submitted to the TRRC before his appearance, he admitted knowledge of the plan to overthrow the government and said he couldn’t take it seriously because of the frequency of rumours of coup at the time.
Bajo sailed with Jawara to Dakar in July on the USS La Moure County when soldiers seized the State House. He left the ex-president in Dakar and returned to Banjul a few days later by land. He was appointed a divisional commissioner by Jammeh and the ruling military junta. Bajo was later promoted to ministerial and ambassadorial positions under the Jammeh administration for many years before being removed from office. He’s currently the President of The Gambia Football Federation (GFF).