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How Edward Singhateh is determined to walk free

Edward Singhateh

In the history of criminal justice there are hundreds of wrongfully convicted people, which in other words mean criminals were acquitted or never charged. The reason for this, among other things is the fact that there was not enough evidence to proof beyond reasonable doubt that an accused person committed or did not commit a crime.

Justice dispensation is often times not based on truth but based on evidence that can prove beyond any reasonable doubt that a person is in fact guilty or not guilty of a crime. So in essence, it is about eliminating reasonable doubt on a person’s culpability or lack thereof.

Former Vice Chairman of the Gambia’s military junta; the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) Edward Singhateh’s appearance before The Gambia’s Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has been a legal tussle of sorts, if not the most interesting albeit frustrating at times. His subsequent training and practice in law gave him enough legal knowledge to defend himself in a court; although the TRRC hearings are not court proceedings, Edward’s testimonial made it feel like one .

The fact that the crimes that Edward should have knowledge of or had participated in, also had other witnesses and culprits. Some of those culprits and witnesses testified before the TRRC and their testimonies were public. Edward had access to their testimonies and the claims made thereof as well as the accusations leveled against him on the extent of his involvement. That information, a lot of which was admitted into evidence coupled with his legal training, he came prepared to either discredit the witnesses or the evidence they presented.

Consistently, he would point to flaws in the witness testimonies or directly attack the credibility of the witness just to plant doubt in the admissibility of the evidence against him. He does not really need to prove anything, but if he can successfully implant doubt in our minds, a reasonable judge would acquit barring further incriminatory evidence.

For example, Mile II prisons was “took dark” for a prisoner in his cell to make out what exactly was happening in the small dark corridors swarming with soldiers much less to identify who those soldiers were. So when accusations of torture are brought against him, he can deny them because it will be a case of his word against theirs. As to the time, he claimed none of the illegally detained prisoners had watches so they could not ascertain the time he was at the prison.

That same tactic was what he used in the Koro Ceesay murder allegation; three different witnesses all accounted for the time of the crime to be in the late evening; between 7pm and 10pm and also claimed the departure of the then president to be around the same late evening period, an event which preceded the crime, at both events Edward was present; physically he cannot be in two places at the same time. So either the witnesses get the time stamp right or he ‘walks’, and considering the crime in question took place 24 years ago, that will be a difficult evidence to produce. The Gambian (African) generally bases his time around events rather than clock time.

Every other crime that Edward has been named or implicated in was done in his capacity as a member of the military ruling council and was collectively responsible alongside other council members. The one that sticks out for him was the death of Ousman Koro Ceesay, the Gambia’s Finance minister at the time of his death in 1995. At the time, Edward was the Vice Chairman of the military junta, the country’s number two and also its acting president by virtue of the fact that the chairman of the council and then president was out of the country.

For over two decades, even before any official investigation, Edward Singhateh and his brother Peter Singhateh featured prominently in the rumors that named the perpetrators. Suspicion was always on him as the mastermind of the killing. A former Junta member and then spokesman for the junta did allege that Edward Singhateh, his brother Peter Singhateh and Yankuba Touray were the culprits alongside their orderlies. So the suspicion is not new. Besides that, a serving minister dying in such mysterious circumstances warranted a thorough and conclusive investigation that was never done pointing to a cover up. So the story never died.

Then came the setting up of the TRRC tasked with uncovering the truths around the gross human rights violations and extra judicial killings that occurred from July 22, 1994 to January 2017, their mandate covers the killing of Ousman Koro Ceesay. Two of Edward Singhateh’s orderlies, Yankuba Touray’s orderlies, army personnel stationed at Yankuba Touray’s house as guards and soldiers who witnessed and/or participated in the killing, like Alaji Kanyi, all testified and named Edward Singhateh and his brother as not only present but actually committed the crime. The body was removed from the scene and transported to an isolated wooded area and set alight in the minister’s own official car.

Now to prove this beyond reasonable doubt we will need a conclusive coroner’s report as to the cause of death; we will not get that. The crime scene, where the actual murder (bludgeoning to death) took place would need to be combed for forensic evidence, 24 years later that is nigh impossible. The only evidence we can rely on now is the eye witness accounts; those eye witnesses are Edward’s target to discredit.

Already, he has come up with a story that places the victim near the scene of the staged accident by saying in addition to his state function as finance minister, he was also a mule running cash to that remote location for rebels fighting a separatist guerrilla war in the nearby southern Senegalese region of Casamance. Already, the family had testified that the late Ousman Koro Ceesay had no earthly business being anyway near where his vehicle was found especially so late in the day. Edward had access to that public testimony and has to explain how the government’s investigation could have placed the slain minister in that part of the country.

Yaya Jammeh has been known to be deeply involved in that conflict for ethnic reasons, in fact a lot of the extra judicial executions were carried out in that region while the rebel gang provided cover and protection for him, a fact that his hit squad attested to in several testimonies. When a shipment of arms from Iran was intercepted in Nigeria bound for ‘Kanilai Family Farms’, everyone knew where the final destination was as Gambia National Army had a standard procurement protocol.

So using that fact, and the fact that Ousman Koro Ceesay was the finance minister at the time, Edward Singhateh concocted a story that the Libyan government of late Muamar Ghadaffi was sponsoring armed factions across West Africa in a bid to expand his revolutionary reach and hence was regularly remitting large sums for groups in Guinea Bissau and southern Senegal through Yaya Jammeh, who in turn uses his finance minister as a mule to run the money to the rebels. The rebels will send someone across the porous border to meet with the mule near the location where the burnt Mercedes with the charred remains of the former finance minister were found to collect the money and make it across the border.

Very few people were privy to that clandestine arrangement, Edward Singhateh himself, Yaya Jammeh (now in exile), the late Ousman Koro Ceesay and the rebel representatives who come to collect the money. Yaya jammeh is incredibly deceptive and a pathological liar, so him being a credible witness against Edward on the specifics of that clandestine arrangement will be a very difficult task.

So when the official narrative was issued back in 1995 that the minister was involved in an accident in which his vehicle caught fire and he was burnt to death, one can see why the government would not want to publicly divulge the reason why the minister was in that area for obvious reasons. Yaya Jammeh cannot extricate himself from involvement in backing rebels against a sovereign government; the rebels are nameless and faceless guerillas and Ousman Koro Ceesay is not around to clear his name.

The witnesses to the actual murder either have inconsistent timelines, were holding grudges against Edward for not having parted ways cordially when they worked for him, or were simply unreliable and untrustworthy. With this much, now you’re thinking he has a point.

I hope the investigators have other evidence against Edward otherwise we are looking at a very difficult legal case should charges be brought against him, which they should. It is unconscionable that in an attempt to extricate himself and his brother,  Edward Singhateh chose to lie against a decent young man who cannot defend himself. I mean why on earth would Ousman Koro Ceesay be the mule for rebels when Yaya Jammeh has a thousand other rebel sympathizers to use, and especially considering the fact that his native village is literally on the border with Casamance?

In my opinion, the coup d’état of July 22, 1994 still stands as a treasonous act. It is largely not viewed that way it, and so in a show of bravery all are owning up to it as the mastermind or the bravest of the mutineers and hence admitting to and giving details of their participation in the treasonous act. Therein lies a charge that cannot be refuted and that has already been admitted to, despite the justification for it, it was treason and because of it all the illegalities that ensued were possible. The perpetrators and ring leaders need to be charged in court and pursued to the full extent of the law which currently is the death penalty and they need to be prosecuted on that.

When the nation has given them a second chance to own up to their misdeeds and sincerely seek forgiveness, like the cowards they are, they chose to further traumatize us with lies and denials. These sadists belong in prison and they should not live outside of it for all the horrors they visited on innocent citizens and for continuing to lie about them without remorse.

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