The Chronicle Gambia

‘Tortured’ Soldier Sold Land to Acquire Lawyer, Yet Served a 10-Year Sentence

Babou Janha, 43, has told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that he suffers from psychological trauma when he thinks about the loss of  his property to pay legal fees, and the ten-year jail sentence he served in Mile 2 following his implication in the 2006 aborted coup.

A Warrant Officer Class II (WO2), Janha was posted to Yundum barracks under the supply and transport unit in 1996. From 1998 to 2001, he was posted to the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) headquarters in Banjul as a driver to the late Colonel Ndure Cham before being deployed for a peace-keeping mission to Darfur. Upon his return, he continued to serve Ndure Cham who was later accused of leading an unsuccessful coup.

“In 2006, when Ndure Cham was accused of a military coup I was arrested on the 3rd of April and that was the end of my posting at GAF headquarters. I was arrested in connection with the foiled coup of Colonel Ndure Cham. I was a Lance Corporal at the time. I was arrested at the army headquarters by Alagie Martin with a section from the State House battalion – roughly 12 soldiers came to arrest me who were fully armed.”

Jahna testified that Martin and his men told him that he was needed at the National Intelligence Agency headquarters in Banjul and asked him to follow them. Upon arriving he found a panel of interrogators from different security outfits including the NIA and the army.  

“I was given a seat and that was the time questions started coming about the coup of Ndure Cham. The panel was 20 or more people, and the section that arrested me were from the State House. You have NIA personnel there and some members of the armed forces. Later I was charged with three counts of concealment of treason, concealment of conspiracy and I forget the other count. I was charged after two weeks of my arrest.”

Janha named NIA personnel, Baba Saho and Foday Barry, GAF Lance Corporal Bojang, late Musa Jammeh, and Alagie Martin from the State Guard as members of the panel. Due to his affiliation with Ndure Cham, Janha claims that the panelists pressured him to serve as a state witness against Cham, despite not knowing anything about the case. According to Janha, the panelists promised to prepare him for the case.

“They were forcing me to say something which I don’t know concerning that coup plot. They asked me about people who used to come to Ndure Cham’s office. I told them I cannot pinpoint anybody who comes to Ndure Cham’s office because it’s a public office and even they themselves asking me used to come there.”

At this juncture, he claims that Musa struck in the face, causing him to fall down and roll underneath the table.

“They started beating, kicking me with their combats, hitting me with their rifle butts, stomping on me. I was beaten mercilessly. They were kicking me with their military boots on my face, ribs, back and on my head. They hit me with rifle butts.”

Alhagie Martin

Janha said the attack was led by Alagie Martin, now a general in the army. He recalled Jammeh threatening to kill him if he failed to comply. The beating he said had lasted for four hours.

“While they were beating me, my mouth was bleeding, my nose was bleeding and my eyes and some parts of my body. I never had any medical treatment for those injuries.”

He mentioned Hydara, former deputy director of NIA, who ordered that he should be taken to Mile 2, threatening to bring him back if he fails to comply.

“I was taken to David Colley’s office. I was stripped of all my belongings. They have recorded my arrival and I was taken to maximum security wing, block number 5 in a one-man cell.”

“The condition of that cell was very bad. It was a very small cell. The length is like two meters and the width is one and a half meter. I stayed there for nine years, four months. I was very unconscious.”

Responding to charges levied on him in court, Janha had access to a lawyer who stood for him but could not save him from going to jail.

Janha at TRRC

“…I sold my compound to pay a lawyer who will defend me because I cannot defend myself so that I will be able to go out of that case. Unfortunately, I lost the compound and I was sentenced to ten years in prison.” According to Janha, he continues to suffer from psychological trauma anytime his mind reflects on how he lost his compound.

However, with all the charges stacked up against him, “…nobody ever stood in court and mentioned my name and my statement was also thrown away.” No witnesses were ever introduced to testify against Janha.

He recalled the day of his final hearing, when Nigerian-born, judge-advocate, Emmanuel Agim, suggested that some of  the detainees may rejoin their families – but that glimmer of hope soon faded. Following Agim’s announcement, Janha recalled seeing their escorts suspicious phone calls.

“During those phone calls, a phone was passed onto the president of Court Martial General, Sarjo Fofana, who later bent down trying to talk to the judge advocate. He said something to him. The judge advocate then announced that the court should halt for some time before the final decision will be taken. That was when they went into the room for nearly two hours and when they came back all of us were sentenced.”

While in jail, Janha testified, he was only allowed contact with his family once a week, and later changed to once every three to six months.

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