By AMADOU MANJANG
Imam Baba Leigh, a critic of former President Yahya Jammeh’s extravagant life style recalled his ordeals under the regime and security forces before fleeing to the US in exile as a result of threats for his critical sermons to tell truth to power.
Leigh is a religious scholar, Imam and outspoken social activist during Jammeh’s reign of terror.
Testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, he narrated his arrest by the notorious National Intelligent Agency (NIA).
Baba said his arrest was in connection with one of his Friday sermons regarding D7, 000,000 (seven million dalasis) that was spent at a Youth Festival, now National Youth Conference and Festival NaYConF (biennial youth event) and “futanpaf” (traditional initiation fiesta) held in Farafenni and Kanila respectively, organized by former President Yahya Jammeh.
He believed the D7, 000,000 (seven million dalasis) could have been spent on better things that would have benefited the youth.
He explained that he was arrested after granting an interview to a BBC journalist regarding his sermon on wasting millions of dalasi on festivals.
He said the following Friday after afternoon prayers a numberless black vehicle used by the then notorious NIA officers packed before him.
He recalled that the plain cloth officers that identified themselves as NIA personnel told him he was needed at the NIA headquarters in Banjul for questioning.
I asked them: “Where are you taking me?”
He said the officers responded that they are taking him to the NIA headquarters in Banjul for questioning.
In Banjul at the NIA headquarter; he said they questioned him why he related his sermon to the president’s festivals.
He added that he had to tell the operatives that he didn’t mentioned the president’s name in his sermon.
He said he was interrogated by two to three officers that wrote a statement about his sermon.
H said he didn’t mention the name of the former President Yahya Jammeh, though he could but he just preached what has to.
Testifying further, he said the officers told him that if he lie to them he’ll be taken to a place very unpleasant and be tortured.
Imam Baba Leigh said he was detained for six months and after his release in 2013 he decided to go into exile in the US and continued to speak out.
However, he said he continue to received lot of threatening calls from anonymous callers that warned him to flee the country.
The Imam activist said the threats did not stop his sermons rather it intensified his works, stating he was not thinking of exile at the time.
He added that all his sermons and works were monitored by the NIA and Jammeh got day-to-day update of his activities from the agency.
He said Jammeh hate him and was trying to incriminate and silent him for his preaching and activist work.
Leigh was among religious scholars arrested, tortured and exiled by the former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh.