Sukai Dahaba
Sukai Dahaba

(JollofNews) – A prominent Gambian opposition activist who was arrested for protesting against the arrest and detention of the leadership of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has revealed how she was tortured and threatened with rape by security officers.

Sukai Darboe, a mother of two, and leader of the Kaalama Revolution, was arrested on 9th May in Kanifing by officers of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) while returning home from the trial of the UDP leadership.

She was held incommunicado for nearly two weeks before being charged together with Isatou saidy, Lele Bojang, Kaddy Samateh, Fatoumatta Sarr and Amie Touray with various offences including rioting, unlawful assembly and inciting violence.

She was later released on bail by Principal Magistrate Hilary Abeke of the Kanifing Court. She later fled the Gambia after she was threatened with murder by some State Guard officers.

Narrating her ordeal in an interview with Fatu Camara of Fatu Network, Ms Dahaba, who lost her husband about two years ago said: “I was returning from the trial of the UDP leadership in Banjul together with other UDP sympathisers.  We decided to walk back to Serrekunda after local taxi drivers refused to take us back to the Kombos. When we got to Bond Road, we met some armed soldiers who barricaded the road. We explained to the soldiers why we were walking on foot to the Kombos and they told us that they would give us a lift in their truck. We declined the offer and told them to allow us to board a private vehicle instead.

“We later got a lift to Jimpex. And as we started walking towards the Westfield Junction, we saw a large number of officers running out of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) office in Kanifing who barricaded the road. As we made our way with some of the men in the group chanting “free Lawyer Darboe” and “We need Solo Sandeng”, I heard a loud bang. When I looked back, I saw the officers beating and kicking my colleagues. I also saw some officer give chase to Baby Aisha’s mother, who had given birth only four weeks earlier. She fell in a  drain as she try to run away and the officers beat her so severely that she began to bleed from her privates.

“I continued walking and sought refuge at the CFAO office. A few minutes later, I was found by a tall officer who told me that he has been looking for me and he would be shagging my mum today. The officer asked me to run to the PIU office. When I started to run, he ran after me and beat me mercilessly with a hose pipe. He also kicked and hit each time he got close to me and I sustained various injuries . During the beating, the hose pipe landed on a scar I had after a recent operation, which split open and bleed profusely. I thought I was going to die.

“When I got to the PIU office, I met two muscular male officers at the door who gave me some nasty slaps. I was later put in a small holding room where I found a woman and some men. Some of the men had also sustained various injuries and were bleeding. A few minutes later, the officers fired something that looked like tear gas into the room. The whole room was pitch dark with smoke and I used my hat to cover my nose. As we gasped for air, the officers ushered us out into another room.

An injured UDP supporter
One of the UDP sympathisers who was injured by police

“Later that night, many officers rocked up at the station. Some officers were not in uniforms. They separated the men from the women and took our pictures and finger prints. All the men were put in a lorry and taken to Janjangbureh, Central River Region.

“As they were processing us, some officers came to us and started threatening us.  One male officer who was holding his crotch told me he was going to shag my mum. He also threatened to rape me violently and teach me a lesson that I will never forget in my worldly life.

“I was kept at the PIU office with other detainees and on 11th May,  I couldn’t take the pain in my body any longer and I passed out. I  woke up in a police clinic bed at the PIU office with drips. I was later told by a nurse that I had seriously dehydrated.  As I lay in bed, I thought about my ten-year old daughter and two-year old son. My son lost his dad while I was six months pregnant and I kept thinking about their future after I am dead and who is going to look after them….. (she sobs).

“I pleaded with the officers to let me go for the sake of my young children…. (sobs). One officer told me that he would see what he would do after he took my statement but he never came back. The officers accused us of trying bring political instability in Gambia  which we denied.

“After ten days in detention incommunicado, we were taken to Kanifing Court and charged with conspiracy, unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with vehicles, holding procession without a permit and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession. We pleaded not guilty and were released on bail two days later. I was in a very bad shape as a result of the torture and when I got home that night, my son didn’t even recognised me. I cried the whole night. In the morning, he asked me who I was when I called his name. He only came to me when I he called him by his nickname and told him who I was….. (sobs).

Sukai Dahaba calling for the release of the UDP leadership outside the High Court in Banjul
Sukai Dahaba calling for the release of the UDP leadership outside the High Court in Banjul

“While the court case was going on, I had a surprised visit at home one night in June by some soldiers in a tinted glass pick up with no index. The officers came into my house and one of them slapped me really hard across the face as soon as they entered the room. They asked me to cooperate with them and sign some documents they had brought with them. They showed me a syringe that was filled with what they said was HIV positive blood and I would be injected with it if I refused to sign the documents. However before I could look at the papers, my relatives who had gone to pray the late prayers at the mosque returned home and the officers quickly left but told me they would back.

“The following night while I was  in bed, they came back and  knocked on my door several times but I refused to answer the door.  One of their colleagues later returned and advised me to leave the country or risked being seriously harmed. I knew the threats were real, so I heeded the advice and left the country with a heavy heart.

A convoy of UDP supporters
UDP supporters being confronted by soldiers along the Banjul-Serrekunda highway.

“I am still committed to the principles of the Kaalama Revolution and is ready to go back to the Gambia and take part in any mass protest aimed at flushing Jammeh out of power. I know that I am only a woman but I did stood up for my believes. I tried to rally both Gambian men and women to take to the streets and force Yahya Jammeh out of power and  I am sure that Yahya Jammeh would have been forced out of power if they had all joined my call.  Yahya Jammeh never expected that Gambians would ever demonstrate against him and his regime.

“We all know that Lawyer Darboe and other UDP members were only sent to jail by Yahya Jammeh to stop them from asking
 questions about Solo Sandeng. But we will continue to ask questions about Solo Sandeng even with Lawyer Darboe in jail. All Gambians should take to the streets and demand the release of Mr Darboe and his party members and the immediate resignation of President Jammeh.  Yahya Jammeh will not be able to defeat the power of the people.

“We have to remember that no outsider will come to the Gambia and fight our fight for us. We have to do it ourselves. We have to stand up for our rights and end this bondage and sufferings that we are going through in our country. Freedom is definitely coming for Gambians and we are warning Yahya Jammeh to prepare for his exit. His exit is nearer than he thought.

“My family has always been persecuted by Yahya Jammeh due to their membership of the UDP. In 1996, my father was arrested and detained incommunicado at Janjangbureh prisons. My grandfather was arrested and  severely tortured by security officials. His kidney was damaged as a result of the torture and he died in hospital three days after he was released from detention.”in