|Gambia's Former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko|
Ousman Sonko who named himself the "Baye Faal" ( loose translation: The Disciple or follower) of the Gambian dictator whose instructions are carried out without question. The former Interior Minister has proven, over time, to be one of the fiercest defenders and protectors of a regime that has distinguished itself for its extreme brutality against its real and perceived opponents.
As an army officer in 1994, Ousman Sonko was charged with raping a 15-year old girl. A few months later, Jammeh seized power unconstitutionally on the 22nd July, 1994 and proceeded to drop the charges against his army comrade. Being a member of the military as well as being from Jammeh's minority Jola tribe who was born in the Casamance region of Senegal but raised in the Gambia seemed to have played a role in his exoneration. He was quickly reinstated into the army and became part of the elite Presidential Guard.
Mr. Sonko has a self-effacing personality that served him well both as a close protection officer of Jammeh at the State House, his tenure as Inspector General of Police and finally a decade as Gambia's Interior Minister. He has always preferred staying in the background and away from the limelight while planning and implementing schemes designed to eliminate what he sees as, obstacles to the dictatorship. Once the target is identified by Jammeh, the rest is left to Ousman Sonko to implement with a devastating precision.
In January 2000, the security forces announced that they've foiled a military coup led by State Guard Commander, Landing Sanneh. Ousman Sonko who was then a member of the elite Guard was reportedly part of the coup attempt but was able to outmaneuver his accomplices by reporting the other coup makers. He led a party to arrest the suspected coup makers. One Almamo Manneh was killed after his arrest, allegedly by Sonko, one Captain Dumbuya was chased and shot in broad daylight at the Banjul Albert Market. Commander Landing Sanneh was shot in the leg. The surviving coup plotters were tried and sentenced to long prison terms.
It was during Sonko's tenure also Commander of the State Guards* that 14 unarmed school children were gunned down by para-military police under his command which was the worst incident of mass murder in the country's history. It was also during Ousman Sonko's tenure that 44 Ghanaians were killed, mistaken for foreign menageries who were in the country to topple the regime.
Deyda Hydara, the prominent Gambian journalist's death was planned and executed by Ousman Sonko as a commander of a hit squad known locally as the Junglers" that carry out tortures, rapes and assassinations of Jammeh's enemies. There is a preponderance of evidence to this effect. Another journalists named Ebrima "Chief" Manneh of the Daily Observer and Kanjiba Kanji an aid worker with the Christian Children Fund were made to disappear under Ousman Sonko's watch.
Solo Sangeng died at the hands of his captors at the National Intelligence Agency where he was tortured and the sessions recorded on the Director General Yankuba Badgie's personal cell phone for the viewing pleasure of Yaya Jammeh who actually was issuing instructions by phone from Turkey where he was on a state visit.
Ousman Sonko has been responsible for the planning and execution or has full knowledge of all the human rights abuses sited in the blog.
In subsequent blogs, we will review the details of these heinous crimes that Jammeh, Ousman Sonko, Yankuba Badgie and many others in the regime have committed against the Gambian people for which they must be held accountable.
* Initially reported as his tenure as Inspector General of Police.
Stay tuned for Part II