Encounter with the Past:
Today, we focus on the violent confrontation between VC Sabally’s security detail and Alas Darboe. Twenty years ago, VC Sabally was the Vice President or most aptly,the Vice Chairman of the military junta, Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council in the west African country of the Gambia. Alas Darboe was a freelance photographer living in the town of Brikama. Sabally, Vice Chairman of the Junta, had lawlessness written all over him. Being flanked by like minded security personnel from the national army, helped amplified their appetite for lawlessness and recklessness, and they make no secret about it. This editor came dangerously close to one of these frightening ordeal at Westfield Junction in Serrekunda. On this particular occasion, VC Sabally’s convoy was approaching the junction at break-neck speed as usual. Suddenly a motorist accidentally crossed the convoy’s path, one of the soldiers in the convoy pointed his AK-47 at the motorist. Unfortunately, the break-neck speed at which the convoy was going made it impossible for the soldier to aim accurately at the frightened motorist. So the soldier pulled back his weapon without firing. That was one rare occasion that Sabally’s convoy would avoid blasting an innocent motorist with lead from their assault rifles. But not everyone gets this lucky. There were stories of pedestrians and motorists getting shot at by SB Sabally’s convoy all over the country.
Two of the most incredible episodes involving Sabally and his convoy were both witnessed by my brother. He happens to be at the right place at the right time for some of the riveting moments. One was at Gambia High School Turn table. The convoy stopped to deliver a raw smack down on a motorist who accidentally tried to use the turntable as VP Sabally approaches. The other one was more of a salvation moment for the thrill seeking rogue officials. One of their escort SUV, a Pajero somersaulted close to yundum military camp. But the occupants emerged unscratched to turned their vehicle back on its wheels and proceed as if nothing had happened. It was breathtaking.
Now, fast forward to Wednesday January 25th, 1995. Sabally was gracing the naming ceremony of his newly born child. But what is about to unfold, would have no parallel. Sabally’s rogue security team had spotted a freelance photographer called Alas Darboe attempting to take the photograph of Vice Chairman carrying his baby. All hell broke loose as Sabally’s security pounced on Alas Darboe in an attempt to snatch the camera from him. During a recent chat with Alas for this story, He was asked if he was an invited guest to Sabally’s naming ceremony. “No, i was not invited. I am a professional photographer who cover high profile events like these for a living. Besides, i know Sainey, the twin brother of the Vice Chairman and the Vice Chairman recognizes me as friend of his twin brother” . “Alas”, The Editor quizzed further,”we also heard that your camera was smashed into pieces and confiscated from you”. “No that is not true”. Alas responded; He continued, “There was a scuffle for the camera as the soldiers tried to snatch it from me. I resisted and the camera landed violently on the ground, but it was in one piece. I then picked it up and left unceremoniously”. Further asked to respond to the numerous stories around town that he was manhandled and his camera smashed into pieces. “That’s correct”, Alas answered. “You see”, Alas went on; “the whole episode was caused by over zealous security. I don’t think Sabally had any issues with me taking his photograph. He recognized me and never told the guards to attack me”. “They just did it because they want to show their arrogance”.
However, Kairabanews editor is baffled by how Alas tried to dismisses Sabally’s involvement. He did not hold Sabally responsible at all. But as far as this editor is concern, Vice Chairman Sabally is complicit in the attack because he choose not to restrain his guards when they attacked Alas. And the saddest part of it all, VC Sabally recognizes Alas as his twin brother’s friend but still made no attempt to restrain his guards from assaulting him. That we found incredibly reckless and disappointing. It just made it difficult for this editor to accept Alas’s explanation that this was entirely on the security.