By Zainab Jobarteh
No person perceived as a threat to President Yahya Jammeh’s hold on power could escape unscathed. This rule applied to the former dictator’s family, friends, allies, and opponents alike.
Saul Ndow, a former Jammeh ally, was no exception. The 61-year-old businessman, political activist, and father-of-five was last seen in April 2013, and his family had no idea of his whereabouts until March 4, 2018, when the Freedom Newspaper published the confession of an unnamed Jungler describing the details of the plot to lure Ndow and former Member of Parliament Mahawa Cham to their doom. The defecting hitman said he participated in the operation to capture and execute the two, who were suspected of involvement in a coup to topple Jammeh.
The family’s worst fears were confirmed when the account was corroborated by Omar Jallow, another Jungler, who told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), that a colleague pointed out Ndow’s body to him.
Ndow had always advocated human rights and freedom. During his studies in the US, he supported the black power movement and fought for respect of human rights and political equity. He was vocal about issues affecting people everywhere, including his home country.
Ndow’s interest in politics and development issues in The Gambia started during the regime of the country’s first president, Sir Dawda Jawara. At first, he support the regime change that came with the coup that brought Yahya Jammeh to power because he believed that Sir Dawda’s long tenure had led to stagnation of the development of the country.
“They worked together in the beginning because he believed that a system change would benefit the country,” Sirra Ndow, his niece, said. She explained that her uncle had hoped to guide Jammeh’s young regime to do the right thing. However, when he realised that the president’s agenda had changed, he opposed the regime “because his interest was for a democratic government”.
As a businessman, Ndow had lived in several African countries before finally settling back home in The Gambia. However, he had to flee into exile in Ghana soon after learning that one of his colleagues had been arrested, and that he was targeted for detention.
Ndow frequently travelled to Dakar, Senegal, for business. On one such trip, he met Mahawa Cham and they started working together. Sirra explained that the family later learned that her uncle, Cham, and other entities were working on a plot to try to overthrow the regime in The Gambia. On the orders of Jammeh, double agents Suwandi Camara and Baboucarr Jarju infiltrated the group, pretending that they could help the plot succeed. Camara and Jarju were former rebels who had worked for former Liberian president Charles Taylor and were now on the payroll of the Gambian government. They lured Ndow and Cham to the Casamance region in Senegal and handed them over to a group of Junglers, who joined their colleagues waiting across the border.
Sirra said the family knew that Ndow was in Dakar because they were constantly in contact with him. However, they got concerned when they did not hear from him for two days. They started looking for him when he failed to respond to their calls and emails. They contacted international agencies and for years tried to get information on Ndow’s whereabouts from the Gambian and Senegalese governments.
“They did not respond to any of our inquiries. We wrote to them and there was no acknowledgment of what had happened. The Gambia government never said anything official about him,” said Sirra.