Until after I heard the testimony of witness Ousman Jallow of the State Security Agency (S.I.S) yesterday, February 24, 2021 at the TRRC, I was with the impression that the regrettable fate of the international migrants in the Gambia was due to pure intelligence failure. I have in fact likened the incident to the intelligence failure of the world that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that before the truth was established had close to a million people killed and an untold number permanently crippled, not forgetting its unsolvable refugee consequence . And, yes, I have long ago realized that governments make such mistakes and often apologize for them but only after exhausting all efforts to justify or conceal their wrongdoings.
Plus given the fact that certain international-organization commissions had investigated the incident and concluded that the migrants were by all indications killed by rouge Gambian security officials. It will help to read the exact details in that report which I have frankly never seen or read. However, if the 2005 migrant issue was a one-time incident that ended the regrettable manner it did, I would have stuck to my initial conclusion of making it just another intelligence failure.
But when Mr. Ousman Jallow yesterday said that they had three weeks earlier arrested a similar batch of “illegal migrants”-32/35 individuals-sent from Senegal by a human trafficking ring run by “Samba Touba” (a Senegalese from Touba whose identification was kept secret) and one Mr. Tunkara ( a Gambian) but were all eventually deported, my whole intelligence-failure concept of the incident changed.
I was expecting Essa Faal to grill Mr. Jallow about the arrested and deported “illegal migrants” including whether the deportation process was officially conducted or not. Because if they had, the immigration must have been involved and the records still traceable.
Samba Touba whose case was not also adequately discussed at the TRRC was according to Mr. Jallow arrested and later released on bail. Jallow never told us whether Samba Touba was charged of any specific crime and whether he was at all tried.Essa didn’t seem interested either.
However, he told us that in that incident, Mr. Tunkara, the Gambian smuggler was on the run and he came to realize that he was again involved in the case of the 50 migrants he collected from Barra Police Station because their Nigerian group leader had handed him over the phone number of their contact in the Gambia who had happened to be the same man the NIA was hunting for in the past three weeks.
I have in an earlier publication asked whether the state/government/ Jammeh was fully briefed about the first incident linking the smuggled migrants to Samba Touba and Mr. Tunkara which had raised no national or international outcry from any abnormality. I still think an answer to that question will explain a lot, if not everything about what exactly went wrong. For if the state was aware of the first incident with all the operatives involved brought to their attention and was perfectly okay with it, why didn’t Jallow, his bosses at the NIA and of course the immigration officials who process the 32/35 come together and speak with one voice to the government about the case of the 50 migrants being very similar to the one previously linked to Samba Touba and Mr. Tunkara?
The migrants were assembled at the Marine Unit upon their arrival from Barra that night escorted by Mr. Jallow who identified the presence of IGP Ousman Sonko and CDS Assan Sarr but never bothered to explain to the service chiefs about what he had gathered so far from the group’s Nigerian leaders confirming the involvement of the human trafficking gang of Mr. Tunkara and perhaps Samba Touba. Had the 32/35 deported migrants been processed properly, it wouldn’t have been a problem to remind everybody about the incident barely three weeks earlier. But Jallow said nothing about the incident even when he saw “Bombardier” and his ‘killer team’ eager to start their nasty operation.
From what was later explained, the NIA DG Daba Marena (RIP), CDS Assan Sarr, Col. Ndure Cham (RIP) and IGP Ousman Sonko actually convinced Jammeh that the migrants were foreign mercenaries from Senegal sent to overthrow his government. By that time it was easy to convince Jammeh of Senegal constantly committed to overthrowing his government. From the Farafeni Barracks attack in 1996, the Kartong Camp attack in 1997 and so many intelligence reports of dissidents planning to destabilize the country with Seedia Bayo at the helm, all coming from Senegal, the idea of unidentified 50 illegal migrants in the country from Senegal during the celebration of the July 22 coup was easy to portray as another gang of bad hombres back again. With all his service chiefs supporting the story, he had had no reason to doubt the intelligence. And the way captured mercenaries are treated all over the world, their fate has always been the same; when captured, they are killed, period. Does European mercenary leader Colonel Callan, captured and executed with all his men in Angola in the 70s ring a bell? Nobody respects their human rights when captured.
In conclusion, I want to believe that the NIA in particular was part of the illegal human trafficking run by Samba Touba and Mr. Tunkara who will defraud the migrants of their cash in Senegal where Samba Touba will also seize their identification cards and send them to Mr. Tunkara in the Gambia. Mr. Tunkara will then alert the rogues at the NIA who will quietly arrest the migrants, probably deport them unofficially and get their share of the loot from the two smugglers. Jallow spoke about the group of 32/35 three weeks earlier, but my instincts tell me that the profitable racketeering had been going on for a while until the last and most lucrative deal, the 50 slipped through their safety grid. And for the culprits to hide their involvement which Jammeh could have lynched them for the crime, they ensured that the migrants were reported as mercenaries and said or did nothing to stop their killing. The bastards were after all the murderers and not the state. That’s my take.
Thanks for reading
BANJUL, THE GAMBIA.