By Neneh Galleh Barry
Babucarr Jatta former CDS of the Gambia Army Force told the Truth Reconciliation and Reparation commission that former vice president Isatou Njie Saidy ordered him to deploy soldiers during April 10th and 11th students’ demonstration.
Students took to the street demanding for justice for their two colleagues; Ebrima Barry and Binta Manneh. Barry was allegedly killed by personnel of the fire and rescue services while Manneh was allegedly raped by personnel of the PIU.
He said on 10th April 2000, while standing at GTTI, the former Interior Minister Ousman Badjie came and a few moments later, the police started firing tear gas. He said he proceeded to Banjul and called the senior military officers and informed them about the planned demonstration as well as ordered them to avoid Westfield. He added that the students were running in different directions because the situation was chaotic.
He told the TRRC that the student crowd was about 5000 and there were less police at Westfield. He said there was no firing of guns and there was no firing of tear gas at the moment when he was speaking to them at Westfield. He said the situation was calm and he spoke to the students but was later told that there was a large crowd of students in Dippa Kunda then he drove with then Minister of Interior Badjie to the said venue.
He said the Minister addressed the students and they were appreciative of his statement until a point when he warned them that the country is governed by law and the students should follow due procedure.
“This statement was not well received and stones started coming towards us from the students and I retreated to a veranda. The Minister commanded my driver and they drove away,” Jatta said.
He said there came a time the students stopped stoning them and they called him to come out. “When I came out, they provided me with security and we marched to Westfield,” he said.
Jatta said on his way to Westfield, he met a group of Students who informed them that soldiers were shooting their colleagues (students) at Westfield. He said around the PIU Headquarters, he saw them moving and forming a line. The witness alleged immediately the PIU started firing, he quickly laid on the floor with his orderly while the PIU were firing at the students using AK47.
He alleged the PIU were firing live rounds and Minister of Interior and the then Deputy IGP were both there, but they did nothing to stop the firing. “I did not order the PIU to fire,” he said.
He said he saw some students lying death and he proceeded to his office in Banjul and the Vice President ordered him to deploy his men (soldiers) to quell the demonstration by all means. Further testifying he said his men went with blank ammunition and at the Vice President’s Office, he spoke to Yahya Jammeh the former head of state who was inquiring whether he was injured or not.
He added he deployed 60 men from the 1 Infantry Battalion to Westfield while a platoon in Fajara Barracks was waiting in case Banjul also face the same issues.