Searching for Truth: The End of a Long and Painful Journey for Sgt. Fafa Nyang’s Family
At around 1pm on 11 November 1994, Sakura Nyang, a farmer was on his groundnut farm in Balangharr Kerr Nderry village in Lower Saloum working when his wife sent his younger brother to ask him to return home immediately. He asked the brother what was happening but he said was only told to fetch him from the farm and wasn’t told what for.
Sakura started breathing heavily, wondering what could have happened at home. He knew it wasn’t good news but he couldn’t get his head around what exactly could have gone wrong. As he approached his compound, he saw a large group of people coming in and out of his house.
“As I entered the compound, I saw lot of people crying and yelling “Fafa is gone! Fafa is gone!” I felt lost and I asked everybody what was happening, but no one would tell me. I was escorted into my room by a few elders. I can’t recall who broke the news to me but I remember I immediately had a severe headache and I couldn’t stand. I collapsed,” he recalls.
Sakura’s younger brother, army sergeant Fafa Nyang was announced dead earlier that day. He was killed by the AFPRC military junta for allegedly taking part in a purported coup plot against the junta that morning.
Fafa’s first cousin, Matarr Kumba Touray was listening to the radio at home when it was announced that Fafa had lost his life during an alleged shootout between coup plotters and soldiers loyal to the military junta. “It took a long time before I realised that I actually heard the announcement on the radio and I wasn’t dreaming. I just sat down there crying and yelling.”
The last time Matarr saw Fafa was a few days before the November 11 incident and he recalled Fafa giving him shirt as a gift as he said his goodbye and left the village for Kombo to return to work.
“He was a special brother to me. He’d always reach out to me whenever he needed an advice on anything and I’d always speak to him as a family. He’d always bring me clothes each time he visited. On his last trip, he waited till the day he was leaving to give me a shirt. He shook my hands and said ‘I’ll come back soon’. Then he took off,” Matarr tells The Chronicle.
By 3pm on the fateful day of November 11, Sakura and his family received more mourners in the midst of confusion and sadness. There was a part of him that believed the news could have been fake and Fafa could have been alive somewhere.
“We tried to call some family members in Kombo to confirm that the story was true. After fruitless efforts, we managed to reach one of our cousins who lived next to Fafa’s house. He confirmed to us that Fafa was killed and that he was accused of taking part in a coup plot. The cries and yelling started all over again in the house.”
For the next two months, Sakura made at least three trips to Yundum Barracks hoping to receive the body of Fafa. Each time he went there to ask for the body, he was kicked out and threatened. Afraid and exhausted, he gave up.
Friends and neighbours told Sakura and his family to accept Fafa’s death as a will of God and move on. But his quest to move on was hampered by speculations and insinuations by some people that Fafa could have been alive, perhaps in life. His confusion was compounded as more speculations emerged.
“We weren’t told how Fafa died and we weren’t given his body. So whenever we heard he was alive or he could have been alive somewhere, we believed that was possible.”
Then on February 21st, ex-soldier Sait Darboe appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission and gave a chilling testimony of how Fafa Nyang was shot and killed by a soldier called Lamin Colley. This was the nearest Sakura got to the details of how his brother succumbed to death.
“My brother called me from Kombo and asked me to go and watch TV. I noticed sadness in his voice and as he tried to tell me what on TV, I realised he was crying and he dropped the call. Then I realised there was something very serious and I ran to my neighbour’s house to watch with them.”
“Immediately I arrived there, I saw everybody concentrating on the screen and I immediately heard Fafa Nyang’s name being mentioned. I didn’t understand the English language they were speaking but someone in the room volunteered to translate what they were saying. I was told what Sait Darboe was saying about Fafa being killed and buried and all that. I couldn’t hold my tears. It brought back old memories. I just sat there crying. Everybody was crying.”
Earlier this month, army WO2 Lamin Colley, the man accused of killing Fafa, also appeared before the TRRC and gave testimony of how he ‘mistakenly’ shot and killed Fafa Nyang in the aftermath of the 11 November alleged coup plot.
“I rushed to save him but my hand mistakenly touched the trigger and finished up my colleague Fafa Nyang… He could have survived if not for my mistake. My hand touched the trigger and immediately my gun fired at this innocent man and I saw blood coming out from his head,” he told the commission, occasionally weeping during his testimony.
On Tuesday, Modou Lamin Bah, a former military police officer told the TRRC that WO2 Colley deliberately ‘shot and finished’ Fafa Nyang and rubbished his claim that the shooting was accidental..
For Sakura, this is the end of a very long, rough and difficult journey in the pursuit of truth. And now he wants justice.
“Fafa was our breadwinner. The family hasn’t been the same without him. We want to make it very clear to the government that we are not forgiving his killers. All we need is for the perpetrators to face justice. We want justice.”