(JollofNews) – A former Gambian deputy minister who was held incommunicado for over one year has spoken for the first time about his arrest and detention by the regime of Yahya Jammeh.
Ousman Jammeh, was removed from his post as deputy minister of Agriculture in October 2015. He joined the Department of Agriculture many years ago and held various senior positions including regional Agricultural director of the West Coast Region, director general of Agriculture and permanent secretary. He was also among a few agriculture officials who have worked in all the administrative areas of the country.
Shortly after his sacking, Mr Jammeh was whisked to the headquarters of the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul where he was held incommunicado for 91 days.
He was later moved to the Maximum Security Wing of Mile Two Central Prisons where he was detained over a year without access to a lawyer and family.
He was finally released last week by the new regime of Adama Barrow which has made the release of political prisoners and those arbitrarily detained a top priority.
Mr Jammeh said he still don’t know the reasons for his sacking, arrest and detention. He added the Jammeh regime never told him why he was detained and the NIA officers who arrested him only told him that they were acting on official orders.
Narrating the events leading to his arrest to Foroyaa Newspaper, Mr Jammeh who was only in the job for less than four months said: “On 15th October 2015 while I was on my way to attend the commemoration of World Food Day as well as inaugurate an event of association of livestock farms in the Upper River Region (CRD, I received a phone call telling me that the protocol for the Vice President wants to talk to me. The protocol officer told to return back and report to State House as soon as I arrive in Banjul.
When I asked her whether I could stay and attend these events, she insisted that I should return. So I drove back to her office and on my arrival she gave me a letter and told me: “Well you have been relieved from the position of deputy minister of Agriculture and the order came from the President.”
In the letter, I was told to go to my office and handover all the documents to my newly appointed successor. But on my way, I metup with some men who identified themselves as NIA agents at the door of the former Vice President’s office.
The men escorted me to my office to do the handing over and later informed me that I was under arrest and that they have been given instructions to detain me. When I asked them the reasons for my arrest, they told me that they were only given instructions and they did not know the reason for my detention.
I was held for 91 days at NIA headquarters before being transferred to the Maximum Security Wing at Mile Two Prisons where I spent one year three months and a few days before I was finally released on 23rd January 2017.
While in detention, I did not have access to my family, relatives or friends. People used to come to visit me at the prisons but I didn’t get the chance to talk to them and my family was unable to see me for more than a year. Food was a problem in prison. I was there for more than a year without eating meat and the hygiene condition is very poor.
Well, I was managing my own conditions as there were no enough drugs but my family usually provided them for me. I am relieved that President Jammeh has been removed from power and people have gained freedom back. I am very happy that the new government has facilitated my release from the long detention without trial.”