Former Police Chief Landing Kinteh Friday testified before the commission of inquiry probing into circumstances surrounding Faraba Banta bloody demonstration.
The police crackdown on peaceful protesters led to the loss of lives and left some civilians and security personnel seriously injured.
Landing Kinteh told the commission that on June 18 he was supposed to travel to Dakar, Senegal, when he received news about troubles that erupted in Faraba Banta village as protesters clashed with officers of the Police Intervention Unit over sand mining activities in the area.
On that fatidic day, he said he convened a crisis meeting with some of his senior staff including his deputy Mamour Jobe, and Commissioner of Operations Landing Bojang at Police Headquarters in Banjul.
“It was when we were trying to get reports from the ground that I received a phone call from Councilor Nfansu Conteh indicating that protesters were setting his house ablaze,” he revealed.
Kinteh, who is the 53rd witnesses giving his testimony before the Inquiry Panel, resigned two days after the sad turn of events in Faraba Banta.
The killings also prompted President Adama Barrow to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the root causes of the events
The ex-police boss explained that, at some point, a breakdown of communication was behind their inability to get reports from police personnel deployed in Faraba, indicating that the institution is ill-equipped.
He then added that the communication was done through cell phone exposing them to network disruptions.
As if their misfortune was not about to end, Kinteh went on to say an electricity blackout ensued, making things worse for them.
At this juncture, Commissioner Neneh Cham asked him whether they were able to get any reports of the situation in Faraba.
“I got another call from Director General Ousman Sowe of the State Intelligence Service (SIS), informing me about the death of one protester,” he replied.
He said the news about the loss of life had compelled him to cancel his trip to neighbouring Senegal.
“Under such circumstances, it was impossible for me to travel,” he reiterated.
Kinteh disclosed to the Inquiry Panel that he subsequently gave instructions to the then Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mamour Jobe, to verify the veracity of the information they received from a sister agency, stressing why the Intel report is not coming from the police
“After they checked, they confirmed that the information was true,” he said.
“This was followed by a massive deployment of intelligence officers to gather information on the ground. The subsequent reports about the other deaths came from them.
”And when it was established that lives were lost, I ordered the arrest of the five police officers who were armed during the confrontation with the youths including their commander, Baboucarr Cham.”
The six police officers have since been charged with murder.
Kinteh added: “The preliminary investigation revealed that virtually all of them fired live amunition. There was only one gun that remained intact.”
When asked by investigators the reasons for his resignation in the midst of mounting challenges, Kinteh said: “I’ve tendered my resignation because I am interested in the peace and quiet of this country, which is greater than any of us.
”My greatest motivation was to see my personnel being accused of not handling the situation very well to the extent there was loss of lives. I believe I should just step aside and allow the healing process to take its course.”
Led by Lawyer Emmanuel Daniel Joof, the Inquiry Panel has been mandated to conduct their investigation within one month. Investigators have a one-month extension if they fail to submit their report on time.
Landing Kinteh also seized the opportunity to remind the Inquiry Panel about the mediation efforts he mounted in order to prevent the crisis from deteriorating.
He said he spearheaded a meeting on 23rd May 2018 with all stakeholders, bringing together Village Development Committee (VDC) members, the Alkalo of Faraba Banta, the Council of Elders and Ansumana Marenah, commonly known as Julakay, flanked with two of his senior workers.
“This was held at Police Headquarters in Banjul, and gov’t officials were in attendance.”
Kinteh said a resolution was reached for sand mining activities to continue, and Julakay Entreprise was ordered to restore the environment nearer to what it was. But he was quick to add that some of the villagers displayed reluctance with the way they were talking.
Written by Abdoulie JOHN