Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gambia: Family establishes contact with ‘disappeared’ Imam

Mr. Omar Fofana, a younger brother to disappeared Gambian Imam, Bakawsu Fofana has told The Voice that he spoke to the imam on phone two days after his disappearance on August 14.

Omar said: “I only communicated with him once on the phone on Thursday. He promised to come out when he finish his special prayers (after the Eidul Fitr – Muslim feast).”

“He told me that he has entrusted me with the responsibility of the family until he comes back,” Omar added.

The renowned Imam, Bakawsu Fofana was reported to have disappeared during attempts by the state’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) operatives to arrest him at his home on Tuesday.  

His younger brother explain that state agents drove in a double-cabin pickup into the family residence in Sanchaba Sulay Jobe, Kombo North district of the West Coast Region between 9 and 11pm with the intention of whisking away the imam.

“Men in plainclothes came to the compound, while we were praying. They asked for Ba Kawsu and demanded to see him while he was inside the Mosque,” he narrated. “After completing his prayers, the officers met him and were heard talking to him, and even laughing inside the Mosque.”

 “After a few minutes, they inform him he was wanted for questioning at the NIA headquarters.
Bakawsu told them that he was performing special night prayers for 30 days, and would not want to miss it; and besides the day was Lailatul Kadr (Night of Power),” Omar further explained. “He begged the officers to allow him to complete his mission. That he’ll report for questioning after the Muslim feast.” 

But the NIA officers insisted that he must go with them. After few minutes, Bakawsu accepted and asked them to allow him enter his room, after which he was nowhere to be seen, Omar said. Another team of NIA officers on board a tinted glass Pajero also arrived. They demanded to see Bakawsu, saying they have a special message for him from the authorities.

According to Omar, they waited for some time and without traces of Bakawsu, they “handcuffed me and forced into a pickup vehicle only to be freed upon arrival at Bakoteh, few minutes’ drive from Sanchaba.”
They warned me to stop interfering when my brother is being arrested, Omar said.

The Imam had earlier been arrested on May 31, 2012 for unexplained reasons and was detained 10 days. He was granted bail and was reporting to the NIA before this latest attempted arrest.

It is an open secret that the Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) and the Jammeh administration take a dim view of Bakawsu Fofana’s style of propagation. 

Last year, the SIC invited the Imam in a meeting and banned him from preaching in public, including sermons at religious gatherings – at his Mosque, naming ceremonies and also to stop using radio stations and newspapers. In that meeting, his preaching records on sale in the market were also banned.

A similar meeting was organised by president Jammeh at State House in Banjul during which the ban was lifted but at a price of degrading comments against the Imam and strict warnings to desist from allegations of inciting hatred.   

Source: The Voice

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