A former Gambian beauty queen, Fatou Jallow has accused former President of the country, Yahya Jammeh of rape.
The incident occurred five years ago when Ms. Jallow was just 18 years and had been crowned winner of a national beauty pageant.
Jammeh according to a New York Times reporting had just advised Jallow and other constants not to rush into marriage but sooner summoned the then 18-year old to his presidential palace asking her to marry him.
Ms. Jallow who said she refused the proposal initially “thought it was a joke.”
“I was very naïve. I didn’t know how brutal he was,” she is quoted as saying.
But Ms. Jallow said she was summoned again for what she thought was a Ramadan event only to be allegedly raped by Mr. Jammeh.
During another meeting at Gambia’s statehouse, she said, as she and the president reviewed the budget for her project, Mr. Jammeh asked her to marry him. She said she explained that she wanted to study before marriage.
“He told me to think about it, that probably I didn’t understand what this means and needed time to process it,” she said.
‘Summoned only to be raped’
Ms. Jallow narrated that when she was summoned to the presidential palace that day she thought it was a beauty pageant event with other contestants to help kick off Ramadan.
Jallow had worn a traditional Muslim gown with a head scarf and her crown as was requested by the former president.
She was then dropped off at the president’s residence and told to wait with her bag and phone taken by a security guard.
Jallow further narrated that a few minutes later Mr. Jammeh arrived, dressed in baggy slacks and a T-shirt.
She said her “guts literally fell down,” upon seeing the former president in his undergarments.
Jammeh then allegedly told Jallow “You know a woman has never rejected me.”
Ms. Jallow, known in Gambia as “Toufah” said Jammeh took her by the hand and led her into a room, shoved her into a chair.
The former president then started ripping off her dress, according to Jallow who said she started crying.
Jammeh then allegedly pulled a syringe from his pocket and injected Ms. Jallow’s arm.
Sodomized by the president
Mr. Jammeh pushed her to her knees and rubbed his genitals in her face.
Ms. Jallow said Jammeh then pushed her onto the bed and sodomized her until she blacked out.
Waking Ms. Jallow said she found her leggings on the floor and Mr. Jammeh sitting in a chair in the corner.
“I literally stumbled out of there,” she said, and into the same car that had brought her.
Ms. Jallow said she was too scared to tell her parents, or anyone, what had happened.
Ms. Jallow said five days later she put on a veil, took money from her mother to go to the market, and instead fled into Senegal.
She was later helped to seek asylum and resettlement in Canada.
With Jammeh now gone into exile in Equatorial Guinea, Ms. Jallow is now telling her story publicly hoping Jammeh can be brought to justice.
“Mr. Jammeh needs to pay for what he did in his lifetime sooner or later,” said Ms. Jallow’s mother, Awa Saho who only got to know of her daughter’s ordeal recently.
Ms. Jallow who is in therapy and now working as a customer care agent for a phone company in Toronto said “I’m not afraid to speak”.
She adds that “In the end the silence is as uncomfortable and more damaging than the consequences of speaking.”
A spokesman for Jammeh’s APRC party denied the accusations in a written statement to the BBC.
BBC quotes Ousman Rambo Jatta saying in the statement that “We as a party and The Gambian people are tired of the steady stream of unfounded allegations that have been reported against our ex-president”.
He adds that “The ex-president has no time to react to lies and smear campaigns. He is a very respectable God fearing and pious leader who has nothing but respect for our Gambian women”.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) of Gambia has already started hearing stories of witnesses as it investigates happenings during the Jammeh era.
Yahya Jammeh ruled Gambia for 22 years until he was forced out of power in 2017.
But his country has been left in a state of bitterness due to the several reports of extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances under that regime.
The commission’s work will primarily offer some compensation to individuals who suffered torture, molestation and other crimes including killings under Mr. Jammeh’s regime.
There are eleven commissioners who are hearing the stories of witnesses and hope to document the scale of the abuses by October 2020.