The unexplained death of the remanded Secretary General of the Gambia Transport Control Association (GNTCA) has left citizens of a police state searching for answers in a land where transparency exists only on paper. Sheriff Dibba died in state custody on Sunday yet the government is refusing to explain why he had died. His corpse is denied timely burial. This is another knock on our constitution which calls for a Coroner’s Inquest to ascertain reasons for the death of a state detainee.
Mr. Dibba is a 47-year-old native of Badibou No-kunda who had been detained along with his colleagues in Banjul police headquarters. The government had earlier banned the GNTCA before slapping its executive with economic crime charge. The accused persons who include GNTCA Preesident Mumine Sey were jointly charged with intentionally and unlawfully levying unauthorised payment on drivers between the year 2006 and 2015 in Banjul and diverse places. The charge also raises a fundamental question as to why any serious government would allow such practice to go on for nine years without acting. That government is either negligent, incompetent or condones “what is detrimental to the economy of The Gambia or to the welfare of Gambians.”
What is also disheartening is the court’s refusal to grant an application for Sheriff Dibba’s body to be handed over to the family. Justice Simon Abi’s excuse was that she could not do anything on the case of an applicant no longer appeared before her court.
Even a layman knows Justice Abi had ruled out of fear in a country where everything Gambian must get approval from the President, petty and insecure man who pokes his nose into almost everything. But what is stopping the state from handing over Mr. Dibba’s body to his family? The motive is not clear. How did he die? Did he die during or after as Deyda Hydara put it “ritual” [torture] session? Is President Jammeh avenging his anger on a dead body or is keeping it for alterior motives?
We are disappointed and saddened that a dead body is denied timely and decent burial in the Islamic Republic of The Gambia. Islam does not allow inhumane treatment of any soul, in particular, a dead person whose family is mired in mourning. This is the same government that has denied victims of December 30th foiled coup burial. No one knows whether the bodies of the executed Mile 2 death row prisoners were used for Jammeh’s idol rituals or thrown to Kanilai crocodiles. The pain is just too much. But for how long do we have to allow an individual to hold key to our happiness and sorrow? We have to ask ourselves whether our independence has been turned into dependence on one individual whose parents did not probably play any role in our struggle for nationhood.