Victim Hopes TRRC Recommendations Won’t be tampered with
The son of the late Sheikh Sheriff Muhideen Hydara, former Caliph General of Darsilami Sangajor in Foni, has expressed doubt and worry about the fair implementation of the recommendations that will emerge from the truth commission.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) will compile its findings in a conclusive report that will include recommendations and submit it to the government for implementation.
Abbas Muhideen Hydara was testifying at TRRC on Thursday as the eldest son where he narrated the ordeals his father experienced as a victim of ex-president, Yahya Jammeh.
“I have been following the TRRC proceedings for over a year and I trust your work. But I am doubtful about the conclusion of the process. We all saw that there was a Janneh Commission that concluded recently and it was like, they sieved the outcome. The ones they wanted punished were punished and the others were protected.
“If the same thing happens here, no victim will like that. Your job is to reconcile people but if that fails, the end of the process will not be pleasant. I appeal to the government and the national assembly to consider that very well,” he stated.
In 2014, his father was arrested and subjected to lengthy court trial before being acquitted the following year for defying Jammeh’s order.
Precisely July 28th, 2014, which fell on Muslim feast ‘Eidul fitr’ commonly called ‘koriteh,’ Jammeh instructed his interior minister, Ousman Sonko to arrest any imam in the country who observe the feast the following day.
This order came as a response to the request made by the officials of Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) for him to intervene to ensure that everyone observes the feast the same day. According to the Council’s president, Muhammed Lamin Touray in a televised address during a courtesy call on Jammeh, they have tried their best but could not succeed in ensuring that the whole country observe the Eid same day.
However, the Caliph General in Sangajor, in Foni, decided to defy that order and he led a congregation in his village the following day. He was arrested by the police shortly afterwards. He was taken to Bwiam police station before being transferred to Sibanor station where he spent the night.
The next day, he was moved to Yundum police station and later taken to the Supreme Islamic Council headquarters in Kanifing only to be paraded and asked to accept publicly that his conduct was wrong.
“I heard [Imam] Abdoulie Fatty telling my father that Jammeh did not arrest him, but they did,” Abbas told the TRRC.
Plot against Muhideen
After Jammeh’s pronouncement to ban the entire country from praying the next day, it was later announced that the order will no longer be nation-wide but will only affect communities from Kalagi to Banjul. And Abbas said this announcement had made him believe that Jammeh set a ploy to lay hands on his father.
“I realised it was a ploy to get hold of my father. How can you tell one area of the country to pray and restrict others? This made me believe that it was a ploy.”
His belief was further strengthened when he recalled what his father had once told him about Jammeh.
“My father would tell me several times that Yahya Jammeh sent people to him asking him for his prayers so that he can become a king in the Gambia. My father’s reply was that it’s more important to pray for the peace and stability of the country instead. I knew Jammeh would not like that and that’s why I believe that this was a ploy to lay hand on my father,” he further stated.
He was arrested and tried at Brikama Magistrates’ Court from August until May when he was acquitted by now justice Ebrima Jaiteh of high court. Abbas said the trial has denied his father from observing the pilgrimage that year as planned. He also could not regain his health until his death in 2019.
“It has also affected the family and all his followers because people were coming from Senegal, Casamance, Mauritania and even France just to attend the hearings. We saw this as a lack of respect and a violation of his dignity as a respected religious leader,” he said.
“Even if he was sick, their arrest has suffocated him more because two weeks before his passing, he complained to me about his bodily pain. He told me to accompany him to the pharmacy which I did.”
He blamed both the then government and the SIC for the victimisation of his aging father.
“I believe that both the government and the Supreme Islamic Council have violated the rights of my father. I couldn’t do anything about it except being sad about it.
Asked about the possible differences between his father and the members of the SIC, Abbas said they do not have a shared view regarding sighting of the moon.
“My father did not believe that if Mecca sights the moon, we should pray.”
But he believes that the government has no right to tell people when to pray or when not to, adding that, his father was right to his religious belief as to when to observe the Eid.
He also requested the government to change the name of the Supreme Islamic Council to address the fear victims have in the institution. He suggested further that the officials of the council who caused the arrest of his father should be removed from office, as they are still continuing to serve.
“If there happen to be changes in personalities that can at least give us confidence.