By Lamin Drammeh, New York.
Mam Jarra Jatta, daughter of Mr. Kumba Jatta, the former Police Commissioner for Banjul Division has expressed outrage and disappointment with the manner her late father was neglected by The Gambia Police Force (GPF).
Ms. Jatta, who testified months ago at the ongoing Truth, Reconciliation & Reparations Commission (TRRC) on behalf of her ailing father in November of last year, accused the top brass of The Gambia Police Force of turning down the family’s request for their deceased to be accorded a befitting burial. Mr. Jatta was a well-known figure in The Gambia Police Force. He succumbed to the cold hands of death this past Thursday, July 16, 2020, after a long illness, and was laid to rest the next day at Jeshwang cemetery in an emotional ceremony attended by friends, family members and sympathizers.
The Jatta family accused the Gambia Police Force for its ineffective role in the funeral arrangements of the man who they hailed as a “fallen hero” for his unwavering sacrifice to The Gambia.
“My family is very disappointed with The Gambia police force for deliberately rejecting our request to escort my father’s corpse to the burial grounds and grant him a burial befitting of a retired ex-police commissioner. The manner in which The Gambia police force responded to our request was very shocking and unacceptable. We contacted them to provide police escorts, but it is embarrassing that they only managed to send two junior officers to represent the entire police force at my father’s burial. We find this to be disrespectful, unsympathetic, and disappointing on the part of The Gambia police force. They have never honor my father for his sacrifice while he was alive. He has never been decorated with a single medal despite all these years of hard work. My father had served The Gambia police force for more than 40 years, between September 1970 and 2011. He was a good and loyal police officer of this country. When he was an active traffic police officer, my father never took bribe no matter how little his salary was. He was contended with the little he had while performing his duties with dedication, diligence, discipline, and professionalism. This is why he was considered to be the most respected and the most feared traffic police officer in The Gambia Police Force. All the drivers and passengers knew him to be a no-nonsense traffic police officer at the time. Beyond the execution of his police duty, he was nice and generous to people. He deserved a state burial in honor of his selfless service to The Gambia,” Ms Jatta lamented with emotions.
She accused the deputy Inspector General of Police, Abdoulie Sanyang, RSM Abdou Colley and other Commissioners for deliberately shutting their doors on her father’s dead body in his final moments on earth.
The Gambia Police Force according to Ms. Jatta have never expressed or shown any sigh of sympathy to her father despite his ailing condition, leading to his departure. “They didn’t even pay proper condolences to my family in our moment of grief. My father died in my own hands at the entrance of Afrimed hospital in Brusubi. We were left to do everything on our own. This is very sad,” she said.
The late Kumba Jatta was among the scores of victims of Yahya Jammeh’s witch hunt in yet another brutal manifestation of dictator Jammeh’s superstitious tendencies.
Hundreds of people from all ages including older women were kidnapped and asked to confess to murders on the order of Yahya Jammeh, whose 22-year autocratic rule was marred by fear and intimidation. The witch doctors that carried out the witch hunting exercise came to the Gambia from Guinea and other west African countries on Jammeh’s request. Dressed all in red, the so-called “witch doctors” were reportedly using mirrors to identify some so-called “witches and wizards” before subjecting them to torture, humiliations and forcing them to confess by drinking hallucinogenic liquid in tribulations to the death of Jammeh’s aunt, who he (Jammeh), said was killed by witchcraft.
According to Mam Jarra Jatta, her father was asked to join the group of people who were paraded before a group of plain cloth officers and some unknown men who identified themselves as marabouts. Among those present at the parade ground include: Essa Badjie and Abdou RSM Colley who led the so-called marabouts into Mr. Jatta’s office and subjected him to humiliation. They forcefully removed his jujus and stripped him off his cloths, leaving him naked in the process.
Ms. Jatta accused the then inspector general of police Essa Badjie, (Jesus), for spearheading the efforts that culminated into the arrest of her father in January 2009.
He was asked to go to Kololi the next day where he was taken to one compound believed to be the house of late Baba Jobe, who was one-time prominent member of the APRC government under Yahya Jammeh.
Upon arrival at Mr. Jobe’s compound, a dozen of alleged witches and wizards were rounded up and subjected to beatings, forced confessions and drinking concoctions, which is made out of “Kubejara” in local terms.
Many victims died of severe torture shortly afterwards, while others left the scene with a lasting health implications which later culminated to their deaths in mysterious circumstances.
However, there are few victims that are still alive. Some of them have since testified at the TRRC to give accounts of their horrific ordeal about the witch-hunt exercise.
Ms Jatta said she and her siblings are still mourning the demise of their beloved father who she said was considered a “hero”, among their household and in some quarters.
She attributed her father’s death to ten-years of illness caused by the witch-hunt. She said her father was confined to a wheelchair until his passing and none of the personnel from The Gambia police force had ever visited him throughout the period that he was severely ill.
Ms. Jatta renewed her call for justice for her father and all victims of Yahya Jammeh’s ruthless dictatorship.
The late Kumba Jatta joined The Gambia Police Force as a young officer from Kuntaur, CRR, in September 1970. He rosed through the ranks to become the head of police control unit. His next promotion came years later when he took up the acting commissioner role of the Gambia Police Force, Banjul Division ….a position he held until his unceremonious retirement from active service in 2011.
Four years prior to his unexpected retirement, between 2006 and 2007 to be exact, Mr. Jatta led the Gambian contingent to the Sudanese region of Darfur. The were redeployed to Darfur as part of Gambia’s peace keeping mission in that country. His demise is a big loss to his family and the country.
Efforts to contact The Gambia Police Force to get their side of the story were unsuccessful.
Author: Lamin Drammeh, former sports editor, The Point Newspaper now based in the United States.