TRRC: Njie Ponkal Admits Torture, Denies Taking Part in Killings
Babucarr Njie alias Njie Ponkal, a former orderly to Sana B. Sabally has confessed to torture at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, but denied taking part in killings in the aftermath of the 11 November 1994 alleged coup plot.
Njie, a Warrant Officer 2 at the Gambia Armed Forces, has been accused by TRRC witnesses of involvement in torture and extrajudicial killings of alleged coup plotters and others while he was serving Sabally, the then Vice Chairman of the AFPRC military junta.
Ebrima Chongan, a former police commander and TRRC’s first witness told the commission that AFPRC junta members dragged and tortured him, and subjected him to mock-execution in September 1994 when he was incarcerated at Mile 2 prison. He also accused Njie of insulting him while he was being dragged out of his prison cell, an accusation he denied.
Njie admitted though that he had dragged some detainees from their cells up to approximately 75 meters on a cemented floor to where Sana Sabally, Edward Singhatey, YankubaTouray and Sadibu Hydara were waiting for them. But he told the commission that he didn’t see the military council members subjecting any of the detainees to torture.
When the counsel, Horeja Bala Gaye read his written statement in which he stated that the council members have beaten detainees, he admitted that the members tortured the detainees and referred to his change of story an oversight.
11 November incident
Njie told the TRRC that he was at State House on November 10, 1994 when information emerged that some soldiers in Yundum barracks were planning to overthrow the military junta.
A private soldier at the time, he confirmed that he escorted Sabally and other AFPRC members to Yundum Barracks where they spoke to soldiers against the alleged coup plot. Njie testified that at night on November 11, he again accompanied Sabally and other council members, including Singhatey, Hydara and Touray to Yundum Barracks to confront the alleged plotters.
He gave an account of how he and other orderlies tortured soldiers detained in the barracks. “I have to confess that I slapped and butt-stroke one Buba Jammeh. “I regretted this. Looking at my age, I was 21 years old. I was not asked to beat him and I regret it,” he told the commission.
Njie testified that on that fateful night, he saw a group of soldiers around the alleged coup leader, Lt. Basiru Barrow, and beating him until he became unconscious.
He also recalled that the arrested officers were later taken to Fajara Barracks where Sana Sabally shot them single-handedly, according to him. Njie denied taking part in the shooting.
“This was around after 6 towards 7 am. Upon arriving at the field in Fajara Barracks, they were asked to line up facing the residential area. They were in an extended line. Sana asked them to say their last prayers,” he told the TRRC. “We were facing them directly. We were in extended line facing the detainees. Sana started shooting indirectly but very closed to them at the floor when he was less than 50 meters. I was on the right hand side of Sana, just behind him. The way he was shooting you can realize that he was not controlling his weapon and a round stroke on Dot. Faal and he fell down. All of a sudden, the rest of the captives went down and screaming. In fact others escaped through the training school.”
Other TRRC witnesses; Mafuji Sonko and Abdoulie J. Darboe had earlier testified that all the soldiers on the extended line that day had fired at the captured soldiers. Both J.C.B Mendy and Ensa Mendy also admitted that they also shot at the captured soldiers on the orders of Sabally, killing Lt. Dot. Faal and Basiru Barrow. But Njie maintained he didn’t take part in the shooting.
“I didn’t shoot. I was ordered to pursue other one (Sir Jakal) but unfortunately we couldn’t get him.”
He also denied participating in the killings of Fafa Nyang and E.M Ceesay, saying that he only heard about those killings.
Njie also denied taking part in the execution of other captured soldiers in the forest on the 11th November, 1994, despite being implicated by TRRC witnesses in that event.
“I was not at the forest. I don’t know where the execution took place. As far as I am concerned, I have no idea about the execution. I still urge you to continue your investigation regarding my presence there.”
He however admitted busting tyres of vehicles whose drivers obstructed the convoy of Sana Sabally. He also confessed that “usually these tyres are busted with slaps.”