The Truth Commission started a new session on sexual and gender-based violence on Monday. Its first witness Sainabou Camara was presumed dead and taken to the mortuary after alleged torture by paramilitary officers.
Sainabou Camara Lowe was a final year student at the SOS Senior Secondary School in 2000. The April 10 and 11 student protest and the brutality of the security forces that followed would forcefully end her educational career.
On April 10 and 11, 2000, 14 Gambian students were shot dead by security forces. They were demanding justice for Ebrima Barry, a student who was allegedly tortured to death by members of the Fire and Rescue Services and Binta Manneh, a student from Brikama Ba who was allegedly raped by paramilitary officers. In both cases, no one was held accountable for the crimes.
Among the students who took to the street, Camara was arrested by paramilitary officers and taken to their camp in Kanifing. From the time of her arrest somewhere in Serrekunda, she was being beaten and dragged to their camp in Kanifing. There, she was allegedly taken to a residential building where she was tortured until she passed out.
Camara fought off but they would later use a robe to tie her hands and legs.
“One of them started stamping on me… From my chest going down to my private parts. He was wearing a combat boots… ,” she said.
Camara could only partially identify two people. One whose surname is Badgie and another a fair-coloured man who has scars on both sides of his face.
After some time, she passed out. She would later regained consciousness at the hospital. She was told she had already been taken to the mortuary because she was presumed dead. It was only when a nurse was removing a robe around her neck that she realized that Camara was alive.
“I was taken to mortuary until I was given number 3. I was not aware of how I got to the hospital,” she said.
“It must have taken a week to regain consciousness. My relatives thought I was dead. After realizing I was not dead, they took me to accident and emergency unit.”
This was the beginning of a very long painful road for Sainabou. She told the Truth Commission she could not walk for about a week.
Camara noticed there was a wound on her private part and bruises on her thigh but she could not tell if she might have been sexually abused. She had passed out, she said.
“Parts of my body were swollen including my private parts, legs and face…,” she said.
“They inserted a pipe into my private part because I could not urinate… I cannot establish if they (police officers) may have inserted something into my private part.” Camara spent 3 months at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.