Madi M.K .Ceesay a veteran journalist and former General Manager of the Independent Newspaper and one time President of the Gambia Press Union has on Wednesday appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) and narrated his ordeal at the NIA, the torture chambers of former President Yahya Jammeh.
Ceesay suffered tortures and imprisonments under horrible detention conditions at both the Banjul police station and NIA cells. He also had attempts on his life at various places of the country. Below is the full details of his testimonies
Madi born on the 05th May 1957 in the rural village of Perai in the Upper River Region went to school in 1964 at Brikamaba Primary where he sat to the Common Entrance and got entrance to Latrikunda Junior Secondary school in 1972 up to 1976 when he finish his junior secondary education. Then he proceeded and sat to the selection exams for a untrained teaching position.
From 1976 to July of 1978 he taught in the following primary schools: Lartrikunda Primary then call Latrikunnda Danso, Sukuta Primary school, Jambajelly and Jarumeh Koto where he sat to the college entrance.
He went to Yundum College from September 1978 to 1980 but did not finish the course because of a student strike. As a final year student and member of the student executive he was victimised and expelled from college and that is how he fail to complete his college education.
He then worked at different work places such as Fajara golf club, Cooperative societies, Kombo Beach Hotel ,Royal Victoria Hospital(RVH) and now Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital before finally taking up writing as a journalist in 1995 with News and Reports magazine under the guidance of late Swaebou Conateh.
At News and Reports magazine he was a staff reporter, and rose to the position of Deputy Editor. In charged of reporters be them staff or freelance. He also actively report on publishable articles. He remained in that post until 2016 when he moved to the Independent newspaper as General Manager.
Before moving to the Independent newspaper he also held various voluntary positions in various media organizations, both locally and internationally.
GPU 2nd Vice President (1999 to 2004)
GPU President (2005-2008)
AOHJ Founder and President
WAJA 2nd Vice President (2005-2008)
IFF Africa Rep (2007/8)
Founder of Media Agenda (2006)
Established Daily News (2009)
His detention and Murder Charges
He told the commissioners that he had his first maltreatment in the hands of the APRC government in Basse whiles he was covering the UDP country wide tour; when the entourage was ambushed by the APRC tugs at the Chamoi Bridge.
He further testifies that he was detained at the Basse police station and later charge with murder at the Basse magistrate Courts alongside with UDP militants. The case was later transferred to Banjul High Court but the Charges were later dropped against him later after few appearances at the courts.
Attempt on his Life
According to the veteran journalist the car he was travelling in to cover the arrival of Ousainou Darboe’s arrival on one of his European tours (maybe 1998) was deliberately shot at by soldiers who were escorting the then first lady Tuti Faal at Tabokoto. The bullet penetrated the lower part of the door breaking the glasses and got stocked in; “if the bullet had gone a little up I would have been killed” he lamented.
“I consider that the first attempt on my life by the Jammeh regime”.
He further said; later the same day I reported the matter at Bundung Police station where the police confirmed that it was a gunshot as the bullet was recovered from the broken glasses. The station office was then one Pa Sylver.
The Murder of Deyda
He said the late Deyda Hydara was killed in December 2004 whiles he Madi was an executive member of the GPU but not the President. He refers to this as a turning point for the journalist in the Gambia.
He told the TRRC that he took over from Demba Ali Jawo a short while after Deyda was killed; ‘my first task was to start from where my predecessor stops in term of finding out who killed Deyda’.
He said under his leadership with his team Secretary Ndey Tapha Sosseh; who later succeeded him in the Presidency of GPU they organised an international conference in collaboration with WAJA and IFJ. They drew speakers from far and near and it was a sort of pressure on government to investigate the circumstances around the killing of Deyda.
The government failed to do a proper investigation into the circumstances surrounding his killing. We hold the regime of Yaya Jammeh responsible of the killing, he stressed.
His 2nd Arrest and Torture
He alleged after he took over the leadership of the Independent Newspaper in the later part of 2005 and in March 2006 there was an attempted coup on the Jammeh regime said to have being masterminded by former CDS Ndure Cham.
He said his paper ran a story where Samba Bah was reported to have a hand in it and was arrested. Samba was a former director of NIA and also a minister.
He told the commission that the story was not true and Samba was in the office the following day and express how unhappy he was about the article. He said the article was authored by one of their senior reporter Lamin Fatty. Samba was assigned a reporter and they carried all what he said and clear him as nothing to do with the coup. This he said was published in the following day’s edition of Independent; with an apology.
“As journalist that is how we correct our mistakes; but the system was not happy about that and that was what led to my arrest and subsequent tortures in the in hands of NIA and soldiers at the NIA grounds”.
He alleged he was arrested on the 27th March 2006 and released April 20th 2006.
He confirm that evening he found his editor in Chief (Musa SaidyKhan) in the cells of NIA crying bitterly complaining of stomach ache. He was arrested early the previous night. Later he was removed from his cell and both of them were taking to the Banjul police station by NIA operatives whose names they do not know. The instruction given to the police is that nobody should talk to them and no visitors. He said they were kept in that condition for almost a week.
Later they were called for questioning at the CID section but he (Madi) does not know which of the officers interrogated them. According to the witness the first question was if they know why were arrested and they said no. He then told them it was in connection with Samba Bah’s story.
I told him that as far as us the Independent newspaper is concern we have taking care of that; by republishing a correction with an apology. Which we think as gone down well with Samba. He called for a copy of that and when it was brought he told us to go and that he is satisfied he testified.
He said as they took their belonging from the police the NIA Operatives where waiting unknowing to them. So they were again rearrested by the NIA and taking back to the NIA cells. ‘The cells were only bare cell and very tinny’.
According to him during that period soldiers led by Musa Jammeh and Tumbul Tamba all who were soldiers serving the GAF would come to pick him and Musa, and take them to a place behind the building that faces the then reception for tortures.
He alleged the torturers will use sticks, cables, belts and beat anyhow. They will only stop when they were asked to stop by either Musa JAMMEH or Tumbul Tamba. He said sustained serious wounds all over his body. “If I should undress now you will still see some of the marks. Mostly this torture is around 3 to 4am in the mornings. (This was during light detentions they will call it)”.
He recalled that one of the tortures after he and Musa were mercilessly beating and taking back to the cell, Musa Saidykhan told him that they should run otherwise these people (soldiers) will kill them. ‘But I turn around and told him where can we escape but even before I was done he attempted and smashed into the window with bulger proof. Musa Jammeh and his men did not leave so the noise attracted them and they rush in and took him away. When they return his hand was broken twice or more. No treatments were carried out only for once he was taken away and when he returned he said he was taken to the military hospital’.
He informed the commission that during the torture they will ask who they were working for. And that the owners of the paper are enjoying themselves in USA and while they are here suffering.
He said his answer has always being that he work for the Independent newspaper and no more and no less, because they always believe that Gambian journalist work for the western countries e.g. USA and UK.
“One week later we were taking before a panel of securities (Army, police, NIA,) the then director of NIA was there Harry Sambou, IGP Ousman Sonko and others that I do not know. And they told us that we were going to be released; but we must continue to work with the government as development partners. We were not allow to make any comment” he further testified.
He expounded that when he was released again Musa Saidykhan told him that it was not safe to stay so they should leave. He left but he (Madi) decided to stay and continued to work as a journalist, thereafter shortly Committee for the Protection of Journalist (CPJ) awarded him International Press Freedom Award in 2017.
He highlighted that since that 27 March 2006 the police shield off the offices of the Independent Newspaper for two consecutive years and rendered the entire staff jobless and killed the business. To date Independent did not come back.
He said family suffered (Wives and Children) at the time; because one of his daughters Katty Ceesay though young (13 years) send him a note through her mother greeted him and ask if he was not being subjected to beatings.
“Another one Fatoumatta Ceesay commonly called Nanding visited almost all the police stations looking for me and anywhere she goes including NIA she will be told that I was not there. She try hiring a lawyer and was advised by lawyer not to because I may be charged with treason since the 2006 coup cases are the burning issues”.
Ceesay concluded that his elder son Ebrima Janko Ceesay who also writes for the Daily News online version was arrested alongside Solo Sandeng in April of 2016. Young Ceesay was subjected to very serious beating as the son of a journalist. He lost his tooth and sustained serious wounds. The young Ceesay being asthmatic and subjecting him to horrible detention condition could not survive he died shortly after his released.
Madi told the TRRC that after founding Daily News in 2009, three years later that too was shut down forcing jobless.
Ceesay told the commissioners that he has face a considerable economic losses during the two closures of the newspapers he worked for.