Madi Ceesay

A former editor of the defunct Independent Newspaper in the Gambia Wednesday appeared at the ongoing truth commission where he recounted how he was arbitrarily detained for over three weeks and tortured by an elite military unit during the previous regime of Yahya Jammeh.

Madi Ceesay was arrested in March 2006 after he erroneously named former Interior Minister Samba Bah among a group of individuals arrested in connection with a plot to overthrow the Jammeh regime.

Following the publication of the article, the newspaper realised that the Samba Bah who was detained was not the former minister but a soldier in the Gambia National Army and ran a correction in its next publication.

The paper also apologised in person to the former minister who accepted the apology. But a few days later, Mr Ceesay who was managing director and his editor-in-chief, Musa Saidykhan were picked up by officers of the then feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) now renamed State Intelligence Services and detained at the agency’s headquarters in Banjul for several days.

“We were detained in a horrible and small cell at the NIA headquarters with no access to family members or food,” he said.

Mr Ceesay who is now a member of parliament for Serrekunda West said Musa Jammeh, a protection officer to former President Jammeh and his associate Tumbul Tamba where they were given a free pass to inflict torture on detainees at the NIA headquarters.

He added that duo would normally visit the detainees at around 3 and 4am with a group of seven or eight soldiers and order the torture of the detainees.

Narrating how he was mistreated by the soldiers on the orders of Jammeh, Mr Ceesay said he and his colleague, Saidykhan, were removed from their cell at ungodly hours of the night on two separate occasions and taken to a torture chamber.

He added: “As we made our way out of the reception room, the soldiers started kicking and slapping us. We were pushed to the ground and they started to beat us with sticks, electric cables and belts any how they wanted.

“The beatings would last for several minute at a time until Musa Jammeh or Tumbul asked the soldiers to stop. Musa Jammeh would then asked us questions like who we work for. But when I told him that I work for The Independent, he would order the soldiers to beat us again and again. This must have lasted for over an hour.

Mr Ceesay said he would cover his head with his hands during the torture but sustained some injuries on his back. He added that some intelligence officers took pity on them and gave them cream to apply on their wounds.

He added that in one occasion when the officers paused the beatings, his colleague attempted to escape through a burglar proof window.

“Musa head-butted the window and the glass smashed. The officers ran towards him and apprehended him before taking him away to another room where he was badly tortured,” he narrated.

“One of his hands was broken on two separate places and he sustained various injuries. He was in a very bad shape but was not given any medical attention until after several days when he was taken to a military hospital where he was treated and returned to the cells.”

He added after 22 days of detention, he was released without charge with Saidykhan but were warned to stay silent and not to tell any soul about their ordeal. His newspaper was later shutdown by the government and has never resumed publication.