Former Vice President of The Gambia, Mrs Isatou Njie Saidy

The former Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy has denied accusations that she gave orders to deploy troops against student protesters on April 10/11, 2000.

Mrs. Njie-Saidy, who served for 20-years as Vice President in the Jammeh administration, was testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission on Thursday.

She refuted the accusation of former army chief Baboucarr Jatta that she gave orders for the deployment of soldiers to put down a student protest that led to the death of 12 students and the injuries of many others.

“I didn’t (give any orders) because I had never done it in my Vice Presidency, it has never happened. If Baboucar Jatta said that it will be strange,” the former Vice President and head of the National Security Council told the Commission.

Despite admitting the deployment of soldiers to the protest sites across the country, Mrs Njie-Saidy denied being responsible for given the order for the troop deployment. She said the deployment was agreed at a meeting held by the National Security Council to restore order in the country.

“I didn’t tell them to go and kill, and I didn’t deploy (the) military either,” she said.

Mrs Njie-Saidy said she was never informed by the former president Yahya Jammeh about the security situation in the country but that he only discussed with her about “the matters of other sectors”, adding that on the day of the protest “we discussed that the National Security Council should go and stabilise the situation. (It’s) the security council that gave orders for the deployment of soldiers.”

She also told the Commission that she only knew about the protest and the death of Ebrima Barry on the day of the demonstration.

She said she ordered her aide, Baboucarr Jobe, to call the members of the National Security Council and the Gambia Students Union for a crisis meeting.

Mrs. Njie-Saidy said the service chiefs came to her office and that she spoke to the then president Jammeh on the phone, adding that she told the then president Jammeh that “I couldn’t convene the meeting you asked me because there was a demonstration going on.”

When read a statement by the lead counsel Essa Faal of a witness that Jammeh used foul language about the students’ demonstrators on the phone, she replied that “it’s possible, he may have said it but I don’t remember.”

Mrs. Njie-Saidy denied ever being given such orders by former president Yahya Jammeh throughout her tenure as Vice President.

She said she also came to know that some wounded people in the protest died after her visit to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital formerly Royal Victorial Teaching Hospital, adding she didn’t know the number of death until after the coroner’s report was revealed.

Meanwhile, she confirmed knowing about the crackdown on the media and opposition politicians during her 20-years’ service as Vice President in the Jammeh regime but denied knowing about the hit squad of Jammeh, ‘the Junglers’ at the time.

The former Vice President said she knew about the “bad human rights records of the Jammeh regime” but faulted the then ministry of Justice for their lapses in providing a periodic report about the Gambia’s human rights records to the United Nations.

She also denied being aware of the infamous Jammeh witch hunt in 2007, when people who were accused of being witches were rounded up by the former president and forced to drink a concocted herbal medicine.

But Mrs. Njie-Saidy denied knowing about the witch hunt until after the end of the crackdown.

According to her, she could “neither belief nor disbelief that Jammeh’s HIV & AIDS treatment was false or not. I was not part of the treatment programme because he said he is from a family of doctors.”

Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy also served as the minister of Health, Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs as well as executive director of the Women’s Bureau prior to becoming the Vice President of The Gambia. She served ad Vice President from 1996 to 2016. She is the longest serving Vice President.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba

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