Musa Jobe, Freedom Newspaper, 19 Feb. 2009
Despite the lull in the apparent state-sponsored hunt for witches and wizards in The Gambia, communities across the land are currently living in heightened fear of being raided by a band of witch-doctors and ruling party supporters rented by the President to purge the West African country of the underworld of sorcerers.
Anxiety and worry continue to grip suspected witches. The President Yahya Jammeh has hired Guinean witch doctors, who are working in tandem with members of the armed forces to arrest suspected witches in the country. In some occasions, they forced people to drink local charms, which left many here badly sick. Police sources said many suspected witches suffered various degrees of pain, as a result of the forced medication given to them by the Guinea witch doctors.
After the mid-afternoon raid on the Kombo South village of Jambur, some 25km from Banjul and the Lower Niumi village of Barra, some 6 nautical miles from Banjul, for suspected witches and wizards, several towns and villages in The Gambia are awaiting with suppressed breath as to the next port of call of the witch-hunters, armed soldiers and a group of ruling party thugs.
Keen followers of developments in The Gambia may recall that a group of so-called witch-doctors and youths suspected of being elements of the Green Boys, sometime this month rounded up over 60 villagers of Jambur and subjected them to varying degrees of humiliations under the veneer of exorcising the village of evil spirits. The men and women were accused of practising witch-craft. They were marched to the outskirts of the village, given concoctions and then they began to say abnormal things and doing irrational things like urinating on themselves. Some of the people, who were subjected to the experience, are still reportedly sick in bed or have now confined their activities to the confines of their compounds as they’re yet to shake off the slough of the public ridicule they were exposed to.
Readers may also recall that former chief Alhaji Tabora Manneh of Lower Baddibu, who was also a loyal supporter of the Government of Yaya Jammeh, was picked up alongside a number of people for being reportedly on the list of those suspected of being wizards and witches by the President. An army junior officer, Lt. Solo Bojang, was reportedly at the head of the assaults on the innocent civilians.
‘ We are in perpetual fear of our communities being visited by the witch-doctors. We’re a law-abiding people of this country and do not deserve to undergo the terrible experience that the people of Jambur had gone through. But we take solace in Allah as the Creator and rely heavily on him as our only source of protection,’ said a visibly-pensive resident of Sitanunku at the other bank of RiverGambia.
Reports abound that despite the let in the state-sponsored ‘terrosisation’ of the peace-loving and law-abiding citizens of The Gambia, more towns and villages will be paid a visit by the witch-doctors as the President positions himself for an onslaught on those he suspected of being witches and wizards.
Halifa Sallah, a renowned Sociologist and the executive director of People’s Centre, had already convened a press conference to denounce the seemingly sustained ‘campaign’ against perceived witches and wizards. He used the press conference to challenge the Government to tell the public as to whether its the mastermind of the witch-hunt, especially with the reported involvement of soldiers of the Gambia Armed Forces. He described the development as unfortunate and unacceptable. He even expressed resolve to quit Foroyaa newspaper to set up a human rights organisation that will wage a blitz on such abuses of the rights and dignity of Gambians.
Meanwhile, the witch doctors have confronted certain senior police chiefs who were suspected of being witches. One of them was police commissioner Kumba Jatta. Jatta was disarmed by the Guinean witch doctors after he was forced to drink the a local charm by his captives.
Reports have it that certain top Government officials were also screened by the witch doctors. Failure to drink the said charm might land one in jail. The Guinean witch doctors have the full backing of the President and the army.
According to authoritative sources there were isolated cases of deaths in the Numis. But our sources could not confirm if the said folks died as a result of the forced medication administered by the Guinean witch doctors. Sources said some of the suspected Gambian witches are on their sick bed nursing various degrees of pain. The lucky ones will likely survive, while there is little hope for other sick patients, said a resident of Nuimi.