Sheriffs

By Abdoulie John

The Gambia’s Information Minister has refuted reports that a ‘trade union’ leader was “allegedly killed by [government] intelligence agents.”  

“There is a concerted campaign of calumny waged against The Gambia and the Gambia Government by Western media and their acolytes,” Sheriff Bojang told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “Even when a stray donkey dies on an island in mid-Gambia, they will try to out-clamour each other in saying it is killed by the government.”

Mr. Bojang’s rebuff came on the heels of reports by Reuters News Agency last week, blaming the mysterious death of Sheriff Dibba, the former Secretary General of the Gambia National Transport Control Association, on torture and beating meted out on him by agents of the National Intelligence Agency. Mr. Dibba died on February 21 while in state custody. His death followed his arrest and subsequent detention last month. 

Mr. Dibba’s death news gained worldwide traction, with the Director General of the International Labour Organisation expressing “deep concern” and urged Gambian authorities to carry out an independent inquiry into the circumstances of Sheriff Dibba’s tragic death.

As the Information Minister, it is Sheriff Bojang’s duty to do the cleanup. And in his reaction, Bojang provides a lecture on journalism. “The last time I checked, journalism was about facts, facts and facts and not about reporters playing to stereotypes and writing whatever lies suits their fancy… or filling one’s article with spurious claims from so-called anonymous sources that cannot be held up to the light of truth.”

He disputed reports that Mr. Dibba and the GNTCA leadership were picked up and detained by NIA. “They were arrested by the police, arraigned and the court ordered them remanded. They were held at the Banjul police headquarters and never remanded at Mile 2. And while in detention, they were never beaten or tortured.”

Minister Bojang described the deceased as a middle-aged man in apparent poor health who complained of being ill on February 20th. Accompanied by the police and relatives, Mr. Bojang added, Dibba walked himself to the to the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital. “He was diagnosed with uncomplicated malaria and hypertension and after four hours of treatment, was considered asymptomatic and discharged,” Bojang said.

“The following day, when his illness took a turn for the worse, he was rushed to the Sharab Medical Centre, Kanifing and died shortly after. On 23rd February, a post-mortem examination was carried out on his body and it was established that the cause of death was Ischemic Heart Disease or coronary artery disease, a condition that affects the supply of blood to the heart as the blood vessels are narrowed or blocked due to the deposition of cholesterol on their walls. The examination also revealed that he had a host of other ailments including severe lung and liver congestion.”

 “Basically, contrary to the media reports, both the private doctor and the pathologist who examined him before and after death indicated that there was no evidence of external or internal injury on his body. In fact, his medical reports indicated that he’s been diabetic and hypertensive and has been requiring clinical attention for a while.”

Sheriff Bojang, once a darling journalist, blamed reporters for “webbing together false information and opinions and stitched them as facts” instead of “digging up the facts.”

Mr. Bojang declined to comment on the trial of the GNTCA leaders. “I cannot possibly comment of the merits or otherwise of an ongoing litigation. That would be sub-judice,” he said.

Ends

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