Gambia’s truth commission have been unraveling events most either had a dim view of or probably never imagined it occurring in The Gambia.
Launched January last year, the accounts emerging from the body have been perfectly chilling as Gambians grapple coming to terms with ghastly atrocities of its past.
Spanning from the bloodless coup launched by Sana B Sabbally to Jammeh’s installation as junta chairman and the ensuing sequence of events, the ride has been long and daunting.
Most gruesome of narratives is the one told of Koro’s manner of death. Yankuba Touray’s name began getting dirtier at this stage. First, he tried talking Alagie Kanyi out of testifying who laced him in the murder, revealing the assassination happened at the then lands and local governments minister’s residence.
Immediately and arrest warrant was made ordering Touray be nabbed over allegations of interfering with a TRRC witness. Unavoidably, most concluded the former junta council member had skeletons he’s trying to hide as questions of why would he call Kanyi if his hands are clean, lingered.
Aware of the expiring 72 hours detention limit, authorities hurried Touray debuting before the probing TRRC as an adversely mentioned figure. The public have been itching to hear Yanks’ version of events as viewership surged in anticipation of his scheduled testimony.
At this stage, issues have been bubbling behind cameras –Yankuba refusing to cooperate with TRRC investigators, claiming constitutional immunity. This drama wasn’t public knowledge at this point but hints surfaced when the chairman Lamin Sise delivered a paper before Touray’s entrance into the building amid TV lens.
Clad in a white halftan and sporting a neatly trimmed bald-head, the first leg of the brouhaha teed off with Touray’s refusal to swear as the puzzled audience watched.
“I am leaving if that is the case,” he blurted, getting off the witness’ seat and marching to the waiting room in blatant defiance. Camera crews followed him to the designated spot where Touray stubbornly sat with his right hand resting on the left as he leaned on an upholstered chair.
Lead counsel Essa Mbye Faal suggested he be given a second chance for the “purpose of the records”.
Faal would walk up to the rebellious Touray in a behind closed door meeting which unbeknown to Yanks was being heard live.
“I will appear before the commission but I will not testify and I will not answer any of your questions,” the ex-military said to which Faal interjected: “We will invite you to appear formally before the commission, then take an oath and testify. If you refuse to testify it will attract consequence and we will leave it at that.”
Touray heeded this time, appeared, took an oath and began testifying. However, his testimony merely stopped at his biographical information claiming, “I invoke my constitutional immunity on all those issues.”
Faal countered: “This is not the place to raise immunity. If you want to raise immunity claim, you take it to the high court. This is a truth commission. Is not a criminal or civil proceeding, it is in fact not a legal proceeding. So the claimed immunity does not apply to a fact-finding mission by the commission of inquiry.”
Unmoved, Touray bellowed: “Counsel I still stand by what I said. The constitution is the supreme law of this country. Any proceedings that goes against the 1997 constitution, I am not going to testify. I do not recognise the legitimacy of this commission when I have constitutional immunity.”
Amid the gagging in the crowd that turned up to watch, yanks got up to leave. The commission’s incredibility stood being tested at this juncture. However, in a show of example serving as a deterrent in the future to any witness who may wish to behave like Touray, an arrest warrant was immediately effected on the 53-year-old ex-soldier as he walked off the corridors of the commission.
A wild crowd had by this time gathered to see what would happen. Police officers besieged him but they were talked out of applying force as he climbed up the waiting pick-up before being asked to alight off it and shoved in a car for his security as a wild crowd waited at junctions with stones, baying for his blood.
The vehicle sped off to the Kairaba Police station for back-up as threat to the witness’s life soared.
The Junta man was later moved to an armored transport sealed by heavily equipped security personnel to the police headquarters.
It’s one year today from that drama-filled TRRC appearance. But Yanks is not out of the woods yet in the facing of an ongoing court case over his allaged involvement in the death of Ousman Koro Ceesay.