The mother of the rape complainant in the rape trial of Bubacarr Keita testified on Wednesday her daughter told her she slept with the businessman only once – while testifying elsewhere she told her daughter she would kill her and kill herself if she did not tell her who impregnated her.
The businesswoman returned to the stand on Wednesday to testify in a trial that has attracted national attention.
Keita, 29, is standing trial for allegedly raping his former wife’s 15-year-old sister, with the incident alleged to have taken place in 2019.
The complainant’s mother had testified last week she felt something like a rock in the belly of her daughter when she personally examined her.
And picking up from where she stopped, she said “when I touched the stomach it was like a rock, I touched again and it felt like something breathing”.
She then testified: “I looked and confirmed it’s a pregnancy. I then asked her to get up. When she got up, I told her ‘I told you it’s a pregnancy and you said it’s not and what I touched is a pregnancy as I have passed through it’. I then told her ‘you’re pregnant, which man did you sleep with’. She told me, ‘no man had penetrated me’. I told him ‘of course yes, because getting pregnant doesn’t come from drinking from a jar, a man must penetrate you to be pregnant’.
“I kept asking her and she kept crying and I took a stick laying beside me. I continued asking her who she slept with but she kept crying and wasn’t looking at me. I think took the stick and said I would beat her if she didn’t tell me. She was still bent and crying. I then slapped her and said to her ‘if you don’t tell me, I will kill you and kill myself’.”
The woman testified that she found the stick from her house when asked by prosecuting lawyer Alasan Jobe about its origin.
“It was in my house. It’s a cooking spoon. It was laying on my dressing table,” she testified.
And continuing, the woman said: “When I slapped her was when she told me ‘mom, let me now tell you’. She told me, ‘It’s Bubacarr who impregnated me’. I asked her which Bubacarr because there are many Bubacarrs. She told me Bubacarr Keita. I asked her which Bubacarr Keita, she said ‘Bubacarr Keita, [elder sister’s] husband’. I told her not to play with me and tell me who was responsible for her pregnancy.”
Keita’s lawyer protested saying the woman’s last statement about her daughter telling her it’s Bubacarr Keita, her elder sister’s husband is “clearly hearsay and it’s not admissible under Section 19 [of Evidence Act]”.
“If and only if Section 19, my learned friend and the witness is coming from under 19(b) under the exception just the fact that the statement is made, not the veracity of the statement, then it is admissible. But a word a caution my lord: this is a rape case,” Lamin Camara protested.
The judge reacted that the objection would only be viewed as a “pointer on the foregoing”. The prosecuting lawyer then reacted that the witness’s statement was ‘direct evidence’.
“My Lord in fact it is direct evidence. It is evidence that she perceived with her senses. She is in no way saying it’s Bubacarr who impregnated her or not. She is relaying direct evidence of what she heard from her daughter,” Jobe said.
But Camara countered: “My Lord I raised the option in my objection to save time. Because I could have gone beyond what I have just said. I’m not preempting what he is saying. Even if it comes under direct evidence, it’s not still admissible. Direct evidence must be perceived by the senses yes, if it is evidence that was heard must be of the person who heard it. Yes she heard it. That category of evidence is oral evidence. It has to comply with other provisions of the evidence act like Section 19. This evidence cannot be admitted as being the truth of what she said.”
And then Jobe responded: “So she is not saying what she is saying is the truth. So we’re saying the same thing.”
Judge Momodou SM Jallow then overruled the defence lawyer’s objecting. In his ruling, he argued: “ The honourable court would overrule the objection in this case as it holds, agreeing with senior state counsel that indeed the communication between PW2 and the alleged victim could be relied on as direct oral evidence under the circumstances of this case to allow an appeal of this ruling to be heard by the Gambia Court of Appeal if senior defence counsel is so inclined to appeal, that’s all. The court will rely on the statement of PW2 on the foregoing for its veracity.” After his ruling, Keita lawyer said they would like to have a copy of the ruling.
The complainant’s mother in continuing her testimony then said: “When she told me Bubacarr Keita, I told her I cannot believe that, I hope another man had not slept with her. She told me no man had ever slept with her except Bubacarr Keita. I then asked her how she agreed to that. She told me he would try [sleeping with her] like on Sundays when [elder sister] cooks and leaves for her salon and leave her and the kids at the house. She said [elder sister] would ask her to join her at the shop when she finishes washing the dishes and bathing the kids. She said that is when he would try to call her [to join him in his house] but she would go outside and sit there until he leaves.”
The woman said elsewhere after warning she swore to speak the truth: “She said when she (elder sister) leaves her at the house, when this man wants to sleep with her, she would run out of the house and sit outside until he leaves the house. So she is always late going to the salon and her sister would ask her what she was doing at home. She said [elder sister] would sometimes beat her and told her she was late.
“I then told her ‘if that is what was happening to you in the house, that that is what Bubacarr was doing to you in the house, why didn’t you tell [elder sister]?’ She said the reason she didn’t tell [elder sister], Bubacarr told her ‘if you tell [elder sister] I will do to you a terrible thing’. I then told her if she could not tell [elder sister], she could sneak and come and tell me about it.
“I then asked her to tell me how did he manage to sleep with her then and how many times did she sleep with him, she then told me ‘only once did I sleep with him’. I asked her ‘how did he sleep with you?’ She told me ‘[elder sister] had gone to a program I believe and Bubacarr came home. When he came home, he found she was sleeping with the kids in the house. Bubacarr came knocking on the door and she was sleeping. He knocked on the door until he got tired but [complainant] was sleeping and did not open.
“He then sent his brother to scale the fence. Ablie knocked on [complainant’s] window and [complainant] got up. He told her Bubacarr said you should open the door for him. She then went and opened the door for him. When she opened the door, Bubacarr Keita entered and she wanted to go back to her room to sleep but Bubacarr Keita asked her come and sleep in his room instead.”
Keita’s lawyer Camara took to his feet again and argued: “My Lord I hate to interrupt but this has brought us another situation of inadmissible oral evidence and yet it’s direct. My Lord this evidence falls under Section 19(b) of the Evidence Act and there is no exception for the inadmissibility of this kind of evidence. The witness told this court what Bubacarr allegedly told the complainant. My Lord that is not admissible. We object to it.”
The opposing lawyer Jobe when asked if he would admit the objection said: “I will admit in these circumstances. Because that’s what I just wanted to guide her, to just skip all these parts.” The judge then sustained the protest.
The prosecuting then asked the witness to explain what steps she took when she believed her daughter was indeed pregnant.
And the woman testified: “I called [elder sister] and told her on the whole [complainant’s] sickness is due to pregnancy. When I called [elder sister], [she] told me ‘what are you saying?’ She asked me who impregnated her but I told her she should come to the house, that this wasn’t something we could discuss publicly. This was when [she] came and when she came, she found us in my house. When she came, I told her on the whole [complainant’s] collapses and sickness is due to the big devil (pregnancy). I told her [complainant] said Bubacarr Keita is the one who impregnated her. [Elder sister] then asked her and she said ‘yes, he (Keita) impregnated me’.”