The Gambia’s former journalist-turned-security officer has provided details of his brutal tortures. Abdou Jeli Keita, who is still nursing injuries caused by physical tortures meted out on him, fled into exile on August 10th, principally to “save my life.”
Keita’s torturers threatened to put fire in his pants. “They wanted to burn my penis. As a former journalist, they said I should have known what happens to people when they speak too much.” His torturers did not wear uniform or disclose their identities, although one of them “wore a t-shirt written on it 100 percent Jammeh while another wore a military cap.”
Keita’s keepers had a laptop with President Jammeh’s full military picture as its screen saver. Mr. Keita also heard one of the men speaking on the phone saying, “Yes sir, mission successful; Keita is under control; no Sir, we are not at the NIA [National Intelligence Agency]; ok Sir, permission to fallout. With this I strongly believe I was detained by agents of the NIA.”
Abdou Keita’s troubles started on August 1st at around 1 AM when five men wearing civilian clothes arrested him in his Wellingara home. He was blindfolded and driven to an unknown location and brutally tortured. Keita was blindfolded and pushed out of the car at a bridge near Abuko Nature Reserve after 30 minute’s drive on August 2nd.
“During detention, I was repeatedly hit hard and kicked all over my body. At one point I was hit with a metal object on my head causing injury on my head. In severe internal pains, I was left to bleed profusely on the ground. Except a glass of water, I was neither given food nor allowed to use toilet,” he said.
Keita, who worked with the National Drug Enforcement Agency, was not released without severe warning. His torturers promise to keep an eye on him. “They said their mission was to clean the system of bad people like me,” said Keita who was earlier interrogated about articles he had written for the opposition newspaper Forayaa between 2007 and 2008. He was also grilled on his connection with Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, Halifa Sallah and Dr. Sidat Jobe, opponents of President Yahya Jammeh.
His arrest, detention and subsequent torture came about after he was accused of supplying the state secrets to Gambians in the diaspora. “I was accused of collecting information on the prison condition while on official business to the remand wing in Mile 2,” he said, explaining how his wife had witnessed as five men whisked him into a waiting vehicle. “I did not have the courage to report my mistreatment to police because that will be suicidal. I was advised not to flee for my life.”