A former Gambian police chief Alhagie Jai Sowe, who was assigned to investigate the Basse political violence back in the year 2000, says his investigations into the matter had revealed that it was Ousainou Darboe, the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who allegedly asked his bodyguard to allegedly assault the APRC driver Alieu Njie, and he Darboe would defend him in court come what may. Njie died during a bloody clash between the UDP supporters and Jammeh’s APRC supporters. He was sitting in his steering-wheel, when he was attacked and killed during the political violence.
The UDP Leader Darboe and his party supporters were on tour, when they came under attack at the “Chamuh” bridge, located in Upper Region of The Gambia. They were allegedly ambushed by the APRC militants in the area.
On Monday, the UDP Leader Ousainou Darboe testified before the TRRC, where he narrated the trials and tribulations, he (Darboe) and his party the UDP had endured in the hands of dictator Jammeh rule. During his testimony, Darboe mentioned the name of Jai Sowe, the former Crime Coordinator at the police headquarters in Banjul. Darboe claimed that he was allegedly treated with “contempt and disdain” by Mr. Sowe, while he Darboe and some UDP officials were held at the Basse police station.
Reacting to Mr. Darboe’s allegations Jai Sowe, a former DIG of police, said Darboe’s allegations were far from the truth. He tells Freedom Radio Gambia that Darboe’s allegations were mere figment of his own imagination.
Jai Sowe was the Crime Coordinator at the police headquarters in Banjul at the time of the Basse incident. He left Banjul a day after the incident, where he met Darboe and his co detainees at the Basse police station. He was accompanied by OC Ousman Jatta, Aziz Bojang and other investigators.
Upon arrival in Basse, Sowe, said he decided to visit the police station to greet Darboe and co. He introduced himself to Darboe and co. He told them that he was in Basse to conduct an impartial investigation.
He says he was verbally attacked by the late Karamba Gassama and others. He also says Darboe frowned at him when he (Sowe) informed him that he was in Basse to investigate the incident which involved his party.
Darboe, according to Sowe, was not happy when he (Sowe) associated his party’s name to the incident. He had an exchange of words with Darbo, before walking out of the station amid what he calls a hostile reception meted out to him by the UDP officials. He says the UDP officials never wanted to listen to him.
A word later reached Sowe that the UDP officials wanted to speak to him. That they the (UDP) officials overreacted and were sorry about the way they treated Sowe.
Sowe said he told one of his subordinates Jatta to go tell the UDP officials that he had accepted their apology, but he was not going back to the station to speak to them. He said he was set at this time to proceed to the scene of the crime to conduct his investigations.
Sowe says it was during the course of his investigations that he discovered that it was Ousainou Darboe, who allegedly ordered his bodyguard to attack the APRC driver. He says Darboe and co were charged for the murder of Alieu Njie.
“There was an allegation against Ousainou Darboe, in the course of the investigations to say that he authorized his own bodyguard, who was also charged; that he was the one, who authorized his bodyguard to go and kill Alieu Njie; to go and assault Njie or kill him, and he would be ready to defend him in any court of law. These were the allegations then,” Alhagie Jai Sowe alleged.
Sowe said Darboe was charged as a result of the alleged incriminating statement made against him by one of the witnesses to the incident.
Back in the year 2000, Darboe denied the murder charges filed against him. He also denied the other charges proffered against him by the prosecution. Darboe and co accused persons ended up being acquitted and discharged.
A government vehicle was burnt to ashes during disturbances. Darboe told the TRRC that the said vehicle was burnt by his supporters.
“We subsequently discovered that the APRC July 22nd Movement chaps had gone out with instruments that should be used in burying people. There were pickaxes, axes and cutlasses in their vehicle. In fact, one of the vehicles was burnt and that vehicle I want to believe it was burnt by our people; the UDP,” Darboe testified.
Lead Counsel Essa Faal told Darboe that it was wrong for his party supporters to burn a government vehicle. Faal also maintains that the UDP should have properly investigated the incident and if need be; take the necessary actions to avoid a replica of such an incident.
Jai Sowe said Darboe’s admission before the TRRC that his supporters allegedly burnt the government vehicle goes to show that he (Darboe) had misled the police during the investigations into the Basse incident. He says Darboe’s statement to the TRRC contradicts his past statement to the police.
“I think Darboe has misled us. His statement to the TRRC, doesn’t corroborate what he told us back in the year 2000. In my view, he made the confession because the situation is now conducive for people to say what they wanted to say,” Sowe remarked.
Jai Sowe has also dismissed Darboe’s claims that he denied them access to phone services at the Basse police station. He says Darboe was economical with the truth when he faced the TRRC. He added that he has never instructed his men at the Basse station to deny the detainees access to telephone.
“What I did was to give an instruction for the officers on duty to control the phone lines. When we arrived, the phone was constantly ringing. Detainees are entitled to use the phone if they want to speak to their families or lawyers. No one has denied them access to the phone,” he said.
Sowe said Darboe has long been impinging on his reputation about the alleged Basse incident. He says his reaction was occasioned following series of “false statements” made against him by Darboe in the recent past.
Sowe said if he had not provided protection for Darboe and his co accused persons, he (Darboe) risked being killed by the APRC militants. He says the APRC supporters were determined to avenge the murder of Alieu Njie.
He added that the late Baba Kajali Jobe was in Basse hours after the incident to set up roadblocks to avenge the death of Alieu Njie. Sowe said he had to plead with Jobe to withdraw his followers and give chance to peace and the rule of law.
Jobe had to phone dictator Jammeh in his presence to tell him that he (Sowe) assured him that he was going to handle the situation. Jammeh okayed Sowe’s intervention and told Jobe that he has no doubt in his mind that Sowe could handle the situation.
Sowe says Darboe should be grateful to him for having saved his life than resorting character assassination. He acknowledged Darboe’s past efforts to oppose the dictatorship. But he notwithstanding, Sowe said it was wrong for Darboe to falsely accuse him.
According to Jai Sowe, Darboe’s alleged grudge against him stems out from a rough journey he (Darboe) and his fellow detainees had endured while being escorted from Basse to Banjul. He says Darboe wasn’t happy that he was placed in a police truck while the rains poured on him for hours. He says there was no tarpaulin on the truck while Darboe and co were being escorted to Banjul under heavy rains. He says Darboe was exposed to the rains together with his co detainees.
He added that Darboe was also not happy that he had to go to the bushes to ease himself while being transported. He says Darboe personally confronted him while they were on the road and told him that he (Sowe) was trying to embarrass him.
There was no contact phone number available to reach Darboe for his own side of the story.