The Long Wait for the Truth: Emotional Healing Process of Lt. Dot Faal’s Mother
In Kerr Gebel, a tiny village in Balangharr in the Lower Saloum District, five grass-thatched mud huts sit in an open compound. This is where late Army Lieutenant, Abdoulie Dot Faal was born and raised. He was a popular member of this farming village and as the breadwinner of his family, he’d return here regularly to spend time with his family and friends even after he left for the city to join the army.
In the early afternoon of Friday 11th November 1994, Lt. Faal’s elder brother, Layen Faal was at Sinchu Alagie near the Coastal Road to attend the funeral of Seedy Hatta Touray, Lt. Faal’s childhood friend and classmate. Just before 2pm, an elder brother informed him that there was an announcement of an overnight shooting at Fajara Barracks and he heard Lt. Faal was among those killed.
“I was shocked and confused. It didn’t sound real. I was so confused,” he says.
At this time, Lt. Faal’s mother, Yassin Ngum was in his house at Fajikunda visiting him and his wife. When a message came in that he had been killed, she collapsed.
“His younger brother broke the news to us. I remember I couldn’t open my mouth to speak and I couldn’t move my legs. I collapsed. I could not believe it. There were lots of tears. We were just there crying.”
Faal’s brother, Layen wasn’t still sure the news was real. He headed to the barracks to find out if it was true.
“I went to Fajara Barracks with three of my brothers and when we arrived there, we found one military man who was at the gate and told him that we were looking for Lt. Abdoulie Faal. He directed us to other guards inside and they told us that Lt. Faal went for a mission. Another soldier who was sitting a few meters away from the guardroom rushed towards us, pointed his gun at us and shouted ‘f*** you’ and ‘leave immediately before we get the hell out of you’. He looked very serious.”
Afraid, Layen and his brothers hurriedly left the barracks.
For the next few days and then weeks, Layen and Yassin waited for any information on the whereabouts of Lt. Faal. They were not officially informed about his death.
“It was a nightmare. One part of you believing your son was not alive and another part thinking he might have been alive somewhere, even in prison. We tried everything we could to confirm his death and to have access to at least his grave but there was no success. We’ve never been informed officially about the circumstances leading to his death.”
Back in Kerr Gebel village, the family’s situation worsened. Two years after Lt. Faal’s death, his father died and the family blamed it on stress. Emotionally, they couldn’t come to terms with what had happened to the son and then the father. They were bruised by everyday rumours and unconfirmed reports of Lt. Faal being either alive somewhere or long dead. Economically, they struggled without him and the food he always put on the table.
But in the midst of the sufferings and the emotional roller coaster, there was always hope and prayers that one day, the truth would come out and Lt. Faal’s killers would be revealed.
Then on a hot, humid day last month, Sait Darboe, an ex-private soldier appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission and gave what he swore to be the true story of how Lt. Faal was summarily executed in the aftermath of the 11 November 1994 alleged coup plot. A few days later, another witness and another ex-soldier, Alagie Kanyi appeared before the TRRC for what would be the final answer Lt. Faal’s family needed to confirm his fate. He gave graphic details of how Lt. Faal was killed.
“My daughter called me from Kombo to inform me that one Alagie Kanyi was explaining the death of my son at the TRRC and that I should listen to the radio. I was too nervous to listen to the testimony alone. I asked my son to turn on the radio and listen to it with me. Immediately we tuned in, we heard him talking about how they killed my son and the condition he was in. We both started crying. It was devastating how he was killed in such a cruel manner,” Yassin recalls.
“We could not listen to the whole thing. We had to turn off the radio. It felt like the day he died. The whole village came to the house and we all cried together. My son was a darling of the whole village. They loved him.”
Yassin is pleased that “the truth surrounding his death has been revealed”. Though she now wants to start a healing process, she is asking for justice.
“We are poor farmers who have no powers and cannot fight with the government on this matter. But all what we want is to see that justice is served. We just want justice. People who committed this heinous crime against an innocent man should face the consequences.”
For Layen, forgiveness is not on the card. “If it is left to me, we are not going to forgive anyone because what my family has been forced to go through is depressing. These killers cost us everything. We have been going through a lot of pain and stress. If the government fails to prosecute the killers of my brother, I will not forgive them.”