Mariama Marenah remembers the agony of her family after her father, Daba Marenah, went missing in March 2006 and nobody in the government he worked for was willing to tell them what had happened to him. She spoke to Neneh Sainey Secka.
My father was the director of the National Intelligent Agency (NIA) and frequently travelled with President Yahya Jammeh on foreign trips. In March 2006, he accompanied the president on an official visit to Mauritania. On the day my father was expected back, Jassey, his orderly, called my mother to inform her that he (my father) had been arrested upon his arrival at the airport. My grandmother, who had come to visit us, was at our house. Everyone started crying. My mum called me and told me to go back home.
Members of our extended family started arriving to wait for news of my father.
Jassey told my mum that my dad had been taken to Mile 2 Prison, but we were not allowed to see him. My mum went to see the then Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia National Army, Lang Tombong Tamba, to find out where my father was being held, but she did not get any information. A few days later it was announced on the news that several prisoners had escaped when the vehicle transporting them to MacCathy prison on Janjanbureh island in the Central River Division was involved in an accident. The prisoners were listed as NIA Director General Daba Marenah, Lieutenant Ebou Lowe, Lieutenant Alieu Ceesay, Regimental Sergeant Major Alpha Bah, and Staff Sergeant Manlafi Corr. The news was the talk of the nation. All media houses carried it and it made headlines for weeks. Amnesty International even issued a statement about it.
My mum reached out to the then NIA director, Hendry Sambou, to ask about my dad’s whereabouts, but she never got any information about his disappearance.
My family wrote several letters to the office of the president, the National Intelligence Agency, as well as the Gambia National Army but to no avail. My family searched everywhere and asked everyone we knew was close to my father, but no one had any news of him.
It was not until the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission started its sessions and some of the infamous Junglers started giving their confessions that we finally learnt what really happened to my father.
Omar Jallow, one of the Junglers, said he was surprised when the government announced the alleged escape of the prisoners because he knew they had been executed. According to him, his boss, Sanna Manjang, assigned his group the mission of killing them.
These revelations were hard for my family. We knew how loyal my father was to President Yahya Jammeh, and how close the two were. We started mourning afresh after hearing the testimonies. It was as if my father had died that day.
My father’s death has affected our family, especially not knowing how he was killed and all those years not knowing where he was buried. It is too much for us. My family did everything it could to get justice but to no avail. I believe the TRRC process will help us get justice for my father and other victims.