“We felt intimidated by Junglers” Police AIG Demba Sowe to TRRC
The present Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Demba Sowe had admitted before the Truth reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) that all the intelligence members of a panel set up in 2006 to investigate the Ndure Cham’s foiled coup were intimidated by thugs of the Yahya Jammeh regime.
Demba Sowe who was part of the National intelligence Agency (NIA) investigators said the interrogation of suspects was conducted at night, in the presence of hit men from Yahya Jammeh’s Junglers squad such as Musa Jammeh alias Malia Mungo and Tumbul Tamba. “They often come to the NIA offices. Sometimes we will leave very late at night and report back in the morning.”
Sowe told the TRRC that some accused persons were brought with torn shirts while bruises could be seen on their bodies. He added that the way the suspects appeared before the investigators showed that they were manhandled. “The show was entirely a military show, the arrests were done by the Military Police. The role of the police was to investigate the veracity of the allegations” he said.
The witness revealed to the Commission that some accused persons were beaten before they faced the Panel. “Were you in for it?” Essa Faal asked, the witness responded: “no, as far as the panel was concerned, we were all not in support for what we saw.”
Lead Counsel Faal asked Demba Sowe if there was something unlawful apart from the intimidating presence of the Junglers? The witness responded “Yes and No.” He added that the panel’s activities were both legal and illegal. This prompted Essa Faal to ask the witness “how, on earth, an activity could be legal and illegal at the same time?”
“Not everything that the panel did was wrong as I understood it at the time” Mr. Sowe explained. However, the witness agreed that some of their doings were illegal, such as unlawfully obtaining statements from accused persons brought before the investigators.
Mr. Sowe confirmed to the commission that the Junglers wore black outfits and also put on masks. “Isn’t that a factor which will make a confession inadmissible?” asked counsel Faal, “Possible factor,” Sowe answered.
Sowe said his earlier suggestion that the tactics used by investigators could be legal did not mean that whatever the panel did was correct. However, Faal told him that he may have changed his mind but that he earlier endorsed the work of the panel.
The witness agreed that the investigators’ report led to the convictions of the accused persons.
“As a Police Officer do you accept or do you believe that people should be prosecuted on illegally obtained evidence?” Essa Faal asked. “No!” the witness responded.
When asked who sent in the Junglers, Demba Sowe said he had no idea though he quickly added that he knew that they came from the State House.
The witness said the investigators assigned to obtain confessions from detainees were intimidated because the likes of Musa Jammeh, Tumbul Tamba, Alagie Martin were often there to observe or supervise what investigators were doing.
“You all knew what Yahya Jammeh wanted, all of them knew what Yahya Jammeh wanted, he wanted confessions from the suspected Coupiest,” said Counsel Faal.
On whether the Junglers were armed, the witness responded “yes” as he says he did not know the type of guns they carried. However, Demba Sowe said he later saw some of them with pistols.
“It was generally known that the Junglers were the killer squad for the President”, asked Faal. The witness responded “yes”.
“Did members of the panel complain about the presence of the Junglers?” asked the tRRC Lead Counsel. “Not that I know”, responded the witness.
Demba Sowe said the Gambia sinking into a dictatorship for 22 years was a collective responsibility. He said that the country is now inclined into reforms by capacitating officers of the Police in basic investigation technics without compromising security.
The witness said the police should be provided with enough infrastructure to enable them to respect the rights of detainees. “I urged Gambians to be law abiding” he stated.
Demba Sowe told the TRRC that he was held in custody at Mile2 for 20 months, without a warrant. The now Assistant Inspector General of Police says he has forgiven anyone who contributed to his imprisonment.