The barbarity of Gambia’s security forces is once again on the spotlight following a chilling interview the Fate Network had with Ms Sukai Dahaba who was one of the most recognizable faces of the rare protests to have rocked The Gambia in the best parts of April and May this year.
Dubbed “the face of the Calabash Revolution,” Ms Dahaba was a regular and familiar figure who was not only organizing women protesters but was also leading the defiant protests by concerned Gambians following the death in custody of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the youth leader of the biggest opposition UDP party as well as well as the continuous detention and sham trials of UDP leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and his co accused.
However as a usual trademark of Gambia’s security forces, Sukai was started being trailed, numerous photos and still videos of her taken by the intelligence and on May 9, 2016, she was arrested together with a handful of hard-core female protest goers who have been contentiously protesting at the High Court in the capital Banjul to show solidarity with opposition leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and those he was charged with.
In an hour long chilling interview on the popular Today Show Program on The Fatu Network, Sukai explained how she was intercepted by battle ready members of the paramilitary police on their way home from the court.
She said all she remembered was that live ammunition was first discharged in the air then the paramilitary started dousing the crowd with heavy teargas. As the people fled helter-skelter, the security descended on them beating them with batons, sticks and truncheons.
She said she was singularly spotted among the crowd by two security officers one of whom was in plainclothes, who naturally was trailing her. “From where I was arrested which was almost a kilometer away from the police station, the officers started beating me on every part of my body while forcing me to run. When we reached the doubled-lane highway, traffic was literally stopped for me to cross while I was being beaten in the full glare of motorists.”
The worse according to Sukai was yet to come. “When we arrived at the headquarters of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU)…Gambia’s de facto paramilitary police, two men where in-waiting for me who also took from my earlier torturers. One of them gave me a nasty slap and then I fell down into unconsciousness. This was in the evening of 9, May.
“However I only gained consciousness the following day when I saw myself on a hospital bed. At the edge of my bed was a female security officer whom I asked why I was in the hospital. She only said I was lucky to be alive.”
Ms Dahaba said it was later in the evening when she was returned to her police cell that she really discovered the magnitude of maltreatment that the female protesters went through.
She said she found in a cramped small cell more than 11 women all of whom were brutally maltreated and some severely tortured including the mother of a one month old baby whose husband was also among the opposition supporters arrested with Lawyer Ousainou Darboe.
She said her interrogators kept asking her that they have been trailing her and what she was doing at the protests and since she was always behaving like a man, she would be given a maltreatment befitting a man.
Ms Dahaba narrated how on the second day of their detention at the Para Military headquarters in Kanifing where they were all put in a room and tear gas was willfully exploded at them in the room. She said they were only rushed out of the cramped cell when the security realized that many were suffocated.
But even in that serious condition, she was again tortured with the mother of a one month old baby and the rest of the women while the men who were arrested with them, were escorted to Janjanbureh Prison, some 250km east of the capital Banjul.
She said they were threatened with rape by officers who walked up to them holding on to their pants telling them they will find out what they will do to them at 9pm.
The Old women she said were in tears especially after a female officer Maimuna Tamba told them that she will put them in diapers because she was tired of escorting them to the restroom. She said they were also denied sanitary towels while in detention.
“The security officers were cursing our mothers all along and accusing us of those bent on destabilizing the country,” she said.
Sukai said a few days after they were bailed, plain cloth officers went to her housing asking her to sign a document telling her that they will kill Lawyer Ousainou Darboe. They threatened that if she refused they will inject her with blood infected with HIV/Aids. She had to later jump bail and escaped with her two children. Sukai disclosed that once there is a good number to take to the streets, she will go back home and lead them again.