As the Gambia joins the rest of the World to celebrate World Press Freedom Day today, May 3rd, 2015, I wish to join you (Media practitioners) in commemoration despite being a senior security officer. I am a bonafide senior citizen with a vast wealth of experience in the National Intelligence operations. As such, I wish to assure you that many of us are appreciative of your troubles and efforts towards ensuring a free society in The Gambia. I understand your pains and sacrifices for such a cause.
Today, as you commemorate this Day, I wish to extend special solidarity with the family of Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, who was held in incommunicado since 7th July, 2006. I will today make a ground-breaking revelation on all the information that the Gambian authorities are deliberately denying Manneh’s family, professional colleagues and the population, regarding all the events leading to his arrest by our own agents, and what he went through till his subsequent disappearance under their custody.
Just like you practitioners, we the Gambian security officers ourselves and the Gambian populace in general are no longer safe and secure, as long as our Commander in Chief (CiC) remains in power. Therefore, as discreet efforts to unseat him have so far been unsuccessful, one way we can take on him is not through Coup alone, but the quest to expose all the wrong-doings we have been executing against innocent citizens under our CiC’s directives.
I want to take the lead in this crusade, beginning with the Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh’s case, as per the findings we have made on his whereabouts contained in our case files in the NIA, under the Office of the President.
Considering the failing trend through which our commander in chief (CiC), President Yahya Jammeh is taking, I deemed it imperative to shed light on Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh’s disappearance. Already, some key people who know, or have hands in the disappearance of Chief Manneh are dying. Therefore, if proper measures are not instituted, a lot of information known to people will die down without any trace, testimony or proper evidence.
Based on our investigations at the NIA and as per the files available at our Desk, I noticed that Journalist Ebrima Manneh, a senior reporter of the Daily Observer newspaper, was picked up by two agents of the NIA. The officers were instructed to effect arrest on Chief Ebrima Manneh on July 7th, 2006, following The Gambia’s hosting of the 7thAfrican Union Summit in Banjul.
Prior to his arrest, Chief Manneh had travelled to the US on the maiden direct flight of the defunct North American Airlines linking Banjul to New York.
From the NIA Red file case, Chief Manneh Vs the State, Strictly Confidential
Below is a synopsis of his activities before his arrest, events leading to his arrest and detention, as well as investigations into his case by our NIA office under the command of President Jammeh.
The US trip
As mentioned above, Chief Ebrima Manneh, alongside Hamidou Baldeh, former marketing manager of the Observer Company, in May 2006, travelled to the United States of America on the maiden direct flight of the now defunct North American Airlines linking Banjul to New York. Going by our investigations at the NIA, this journey lasted two days and both of them returned to The Gambia.
Chief Manneh then continued his work at the Observer as a senior reporter attached to State House, covering President Jammeh’s programmes and activities. Records have shown that Journalist Manneh returned to the country and even published stories about their experience with the then newly introduced Banjul-New York North American Airlines flight. Other reports were also authored by him in the Observer, copies of which we already have here at the NIA.
The AU Summit
Going by our files, The Gambia officially hosted the 7th edition of the African Union Summit between the 2nd and 5thJuly 2006 and the following day, July 6th was a public holiday but Chief Manneh went to work alongside his colleagues to do the publication for the next day . While working at The Observer office Bakau on the 7th July, two of our NIA agents went to arrest him.
These arresting officers only received orders to go and arrest, but actually they did not know the reason they effected the arrest. Besides, they were never part of any investigations.
Events leading to his arrest
During the investigations at the NIA, we discovered that Chief Manneh was accused by his former boss, the late Dr. Saja Taal, the then Managing Director of The Observer Company. Dr. Taal complained that Chief Ebrima Manneh had downloaded an article from the BBC website on the internet that was critical of The Gambia’s hosting the AU summit due to its poor human rights records, lack of democracy and press freedom, etc. for publication in the first post-AU Summit edition of the paper’s international news round up.
In fact, after examining the said international news page of that yet-to-be published edition of Observer, another article based on Kofi Anan (former UN Secretary General’s) speech at the AU Summit, was highly critical. That article called for presidential term limits for African presidents, greater democracy and freedom in the continent, which obviously were not pleasant to our head of state. These were to form the next day’s edition of Observer international news page as downloaded by Chief Ebrima Manneh.
Further investigations revealed that Chief Manneh who was on duties that day, printed the said articles into a transparent film and it was sent to the printers in the press room for printing. According to our findings, when Pa Malick Faye, at that time a senior editor at Observer, came to work in the afternoon, he went through the news pages and found that the said articles were included in the news bulletin for the next day.
Our investigations further revealed that Mr. Faye, then picked up the phone and called the late Dr. Saja Taal, to inform him about the said articles which Chief Manneh put in the paper for the next day. Dr Saja Taal, who according to investigations was not in good terms with Chief Ebrima Manneh, then rushed to the office and instructed the printers to halt the printing immediately. We also gathered that about 250 copies of the page that were already printed were ordered to be burnt instantly. The said single transparent paper that was prepared by Chief Ebrima Manneh for the printers was then taken away by the late Dr. Saja Taal. Taal gave the film to the late Momodou Sanyang, former GRTS Director General and board member of The Observer at the time.
It was also found that the late Momodou Sanyang also reported the matter to Neneh Macdouall Gaye, then Minister of Information and Board Chair of Observer. She is currently minister of Foreign Affairs.
Our reports here at the NIA have it that it was Neneh Macduoall Gaye who took the transparent film bearing the articles in question to the president’s office at State House and reported Chief Manneh, going by the information she received from her subordinates – (the late Dr. Saja Taal and the late Momodou Sanyang). This was the exact reason why Chief Ebrima Manneh was arrested by plain cloth officers of our Agency, under the president’s directives.
Also, during the course of the investigation, we were informed that after the said printed copies were burnt, Dr Taal called Lamin Kujabi, former Observer Store keeper to go back to the Observer office that night and give the printers another set of transparent films to restart the printing proper. This was done.
Note: I will also be happy to reveal at this point that the said Lamin Kujabi was my colleague in the NIA and he was sent to The Observer as an informer for the authorities. This was in the days of the late Hon. Baba Jobe. And until he decided to quit the job and travel abroad, he was on our payroll and I can give you his payroll number in the agency’s service.
International pressure into his case
As investigations into Ebrima Manneh’s case deepens, coupled with the pressure and international outcry over his disappearance for many years, both the NIA and Interpol were tasked to investigate his whereabouts. At the NIA, we did not take it seriously because we already knew he was with us and that is why we were moving him from one detention center to another across the country, so that the UN investigators and other human rights agencies will not find him.
Note: The reason why the government was hiding him at the time was because our CiC and president, has already declared that Ebrima Manneh was not in state custody, when that is not true. It now becomes a complicated matter for Chief Ebrima Manneh, after spending years in detention, and could not be produced.
During this period, we (The NIA) have already interrogated the late Dr. Saja Taal, the late Momodou Sanyang. Pa Malick Faye was interviewed by the Interpol in Banjul regarding his knowledge into Chief Ebrima Manneh’s circumstances and the said articles he wanted to print on the newspaper.
Meanwhile, the president should give us orders to arrest and investigate Neneh Macdouall Gaye if he really wants to answer to the international community on Chief Manneh’s case. Also Pa Malick Faye has a case to answer in this, and he should be recalled for a proper investigation, hence Dr. Taal and Momodou Sanyang are no longer living witnesses.
During our investigations, we also received reports of the testimonies of the witnesses at the Ecowas Court of Justice in Nigeria in 2008, during which Pa Ousman Darboe, a former colleague of Chief Ebrima Manneh told the ECOWAS court his knowledge into the case.
We have gathered from our files that in those days at Observer, there were six senior editors running the paper and the management divided them into two shifts. Chief Ebrima Manneh, Pa Malick Faye and Lamin Dibba were on the same shift in one group; whilst Ebrima Jaw Manneh, Pa Ousman Darboe and Abdoulie John were in the other group. Our investigations showed that during Chief Ebrima’s arrest, it was their turn to edit and produce the paper that week.
Like most other detainees at the NIA, Chief Ebrima Manneh was seriously tortured by the junglars and the military men after his arrest. The officers who tortured him include the late Captain Musa Jammeh, the late Captain Tumbul Tamba, Captain Sanna Manjang active member of the Junglers and the Armed Forces; Lt . Sang Michael Correa, Modou Jarjue, Alhagie Morr Jobe, and other members of the junglars.
I remember a day when the late Tumbul Tamba told journalist Chief Manneh that he (Tamba) hates journalists and will kill anybody who wants to bring down the government. The late Musa Jammeh once drunken, also displayed and shouted loud on top of his voice and said this government is here to stay and they will crush anyone who tries to challenges them.
Until the time he was moved from the NIA, Chief Manneh had collapsed on several occasions due to his physical weakness. He has also been admitted at the RVTH on several occasions. What happens after he was moved from our custody I cannot say. It is not yet proven that he is dead, or in fact alive after this.
In order to give Journalist Chief Manneh justice and have a fair and balanced trial, the international Human rights organizations including the UN, Amnesty International, ECOWAS Court of justice, and all other stakeholders must make sure that all those who played a role leading to his arrest and detention, as well as torture and possible killing, be brought to book.
These include our CiC President Yahya Jammeh, the arresting agents, the NIA director general at that time Harry Sambou, Neneh Macdouall Gaye, present minister of Foreign Affairs, who was the Minister of Information at the time of Chief Manneh’s arrest, Pa Malick Faye, former colleague of Chief Manneh who was mentioned in the case, Lamin Kujabi, former storekeeper at Observer who was called by Dr Saja Taal to supply the printers with another set of transparent films for printing after the burning of the said printed copies, and Alhagie Mor Jobe, Modou Jarjue, Bora Colley, Sanna Manjang, Sang Michael Correa and his colleague serial killers who dealt with him.
Meanwhile, some of the deceased persons who had hand in Chief Manneh’s case were, the late Dr Saja Taal, Momodou Sanyang, former GRTS managing director, the late Captain Tumbul Tamba, the late Captain Musa Jammeh, etc.