Soldiers Shot Dead, Koro Ceesay Bludgeoned to Death: Confession of a Killer
Alagie Kanyi, a former corporal and drill instructor in the Gambia National Army Thursday appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission to give account of series of killings under the military rule.
Kanyi’s name was mentioned many times by multiple TRRC witnesses who accused him of taking part in killings during the early days of the military junta. One after the other, they gave graphic accounts of how he allegedly shot a group of soldiers in the aftermath of the 11th November 1994 alleged failed coup.
Testifying before the commission, Kanyi admitted taking part in multiple killings, often crying and weeping during the testimony. He confessed that he took part in the shooting to death of military sergeants Basiru Camara and Fafa Nyang on 11th November 1994, but told the commission that the instruction to shoot and kill was from Lieutenants Edward Singhateh and Sana Sabally, both members of the military junta. Camara and Nyang were earlier arrested and detained for alleged involvement in the purported coup.
“Sergeant Basirou Camara was brought in naked. His hands were tied behind his back. Sana was standing with Edward and he said to me get ‘rid of this man’ (meaning Camara). I was reluctant. Edward called me to follow him and that was the time we moved behind Camara. I also saw Sergeant Fafa Nyang captured and also naked. Edward told him f*****g join Camara. I was instructed by Sana and Edward to open fire at them” Kanyi told the commission.
He was initially reluctant to say if he had killed the two, saying there were other bullets fired by Edward so he couldn’t ascertain if they killed by his bullets.
“I fired at them but Edward fired more rapidly than me. I had no choice. Sergeant Nyang and Camara were dead after the firing,” Kanyi said, crying.
Pressed further by the Lead Counsel Essa Faal, he admitted killing the two sergeants with Edward in Yundum Barracks.
Kanyi also recalled that a group of other officers including Lt. Gibril Saye, Lt. Lamin Darboe, Lt. Buba Jammeh, Lt. Alieu Bah, Lt. Bakary Manneh and Cadet Officer Amadou Sillah were also executed in Nyambai Forest in Brikama. He said among those present during the execution were Sanna, Edward, Lt. Sadibu Hydara, Lt. Yankuba Touray, Lt. Peter Singhateh and Colonel Babucarr Jatta.
“We moved with them to Nyambai forest, going towards Jambur end. We passed Farato but not yet in Brikama. All the cars were parked and the Landover arrived. Their hands were tied behind their back. We lined up. Sana asked them to say their last prayers. I remember Cadet Amadou Sillah telling him ‘kill us with support weapon and we’ll meet in the next world’. Buba Jammeh said ‘don’t kill us but take us to jail.”
“Sana, Hydara, Edward, Peter, Touray, Col. Jatta, Lamin Fatty, LJJ, Myself, B.A Njie. Private B. Njie, Mendy, Private Susso of Gendermie… We were together, standing in an extended line. Sana gave the order to fire. We opened fire on them and then deaths occurred.”
He said the bodies were taken back to Yundum Barracks where they were buried in a mass grave. He confirmed participating in their burials with junior officers as Council members dispersed.
Kanyi denied chopping off Gibrial Saye’s legs before he was buried.
“What would you say to the suggestion that Gibril Saye’s feet would not fit inside the grave because he was very tall. Was that true?” counsel Faal asked.
“No sir,” Kanyi answered.
“What would you say to the suggestion that you took an axe and chopped off his legs such that the body would fit in the grave,” Faal pressed further.
Kanyi denied the suggestion.
The following day after the killings, the military junta announced that there was an attempted military coup and the soldiers lost their lives during the coup attempt. But Kanyi denied knowing about any coup attempt and told the commission that the soldiers were captured and killed.
However, Kanyi denied killing Lt. Basiru Barrow and Lt. Abdoulie Dot Faal, though he admitted that he was being given a pistol to shoot them.
“They were already dead when I saw them. They were put in a truck and Barrow’s face was swollen, with a lot of blood.”
He said the council members, including Lt. Sana Sabally, Lt. Edward Singhateh, Lt. Peter Singhateh, Lt. Sadibou Hydara and Lt. Yankuba Touray arrived at Yundum Barracks with a truck that was carrying the bodies of Barrow and Faal. He said he was called to climb the vehicle.
He said the pistol was given to him by Lance Corporal Batch Samba Jallow who was attached to Lt. Singhateh as a driver to shoot at Basiru Barrow. “When I squeezed the trigger, there was no bullet. At this time, they were completely dead. Basirou’s head was swollen and destroyed with Dot Faal. I didn’t shoot at anybody because they were completely dead.”
On the killing of former Finance Minister, Ousman Koro Ceesay in June 1995, Kanyi told the TRRC that the operation was organized by Edward Singhateh and was implemented at Yankuba Touray’s house.
He explained how Edward, his brother Peter and Yankuba brought Ceesay to the house before his death.
“As we were entering, I heard the noise vip vip… two strikes and the man fell down.” He testified that Singhateh bludgeoned the young minister with a pestle to death. “He hit him three times and everywhere was blood.” He alleged that Ceesay was dead but Singhateh ordered him and other officers who were present including Peter and Yankuba to hit him one after the other.
Contrary to Kanyi’s testimony, the military junta at the time announced that Koro Ceesay had died in an accident in a village in the outskirts of Brikama. His charred remains were found in his burnt-out private car beyond recognition.
Kanyi apologized to the families of those he killed and blamed the members of the military junta for using and abusing him.
In tears and often holding head in his hands, he told the commission how he was abandoned by family and friends because of his past.
Koro Ceesay’s family members were at the hearing. At some point during Kanyi’s testimony, the aunt screamed and had to be escorted by TRRC staff to comfort her.