Star date: 6th October 2009

"Holidays in Gambia are all about blazing sunshine, beautiful coastline and plenty of smiling faces" Thomson Holiday brochure


Gordon Brown's wife comes to Salford and you're obliged through work to go to the poncy reception. On the day, you don't feel well so you get a doctor's note and go home to bed. The next morning you go to work and the police turn up. You're arrested and beaten up. You've been disloyal to the Government. Meanwhile, a journalist from the Salford Star criticises Gordon Brown and gets two years in jail for it.

Never in Salford? No…but welcome to the wonderful world of Gambia and the story of Sukai, who's fled here looking for sanctuary…

Read the full story here.

"I believe I will die"

Mile 2 Prison in Gambia's capital city Banjul still brings tremors of fear to  Sukai Jack. Even sat in the lounge of Salford Women's Centre at the top of Langworthy Road she cries and gets breathless recounting her experiences…

Tortured with electrodes…raped every night at exactly 7pm…breasts slashed with knives and burnt with fag ends. It's the stuff of horror novels and nightmares. But it's one woman's real life story amidst military coups and disappearing dissidents in a land most people only know as an exotic African  holiday place.

Three years ago, Sukai, a mother of two children, was working as a messenger for the Immigration Service in Gambia when staff were told to go to a welcoming reception for the President's wife. On the day she felt ill, got some medication and went home instead. The following morning the police came to her office, arrested her, beat her and made her kneel for two hours in the blazing sun, for daring to show disloyalty to the President. That was just the start of the hell that Sukai has lived through ever since.

As a messenger her job was to deliver letters to the State House, various offices and soldiers, but in March 2007 the police burst into her office again and took her and a secretary to the station, demanding to know why she delivered the letters and which people were involved in the coup.

"`Coup?' I said `What coup?'" Sukai recalls "`We know that you are part of the coup' they said `We have seen you at the State House lots of times with letters'…But I didn't know what was inside the letters, it was my job."

Turns out that one of the letters Sukai delivered had details of an attempted coup against the President, Yahya Jammeh, who himself had originally come to power via a coup but had since been ratified in multi-party elections. After he's come to power, lots of people have been arrested, detained or `disappeared', including prominent journalists critical of the regime. In August this year six Gambian journalists got two years in prison for criticising Jammeh.
In the police station, Sukai protested her innocence… "They just kept saying `You know there's a coup' and started hitting me and putting electric things on my wrists…When they put those on I just fainted so I don't know what happened after that…"

Sukai was taken without trial to Mile 2 Prison in Banjul…There, she says, she was tortured with electrodes and every night at 7pm the soldiers would come and rape her.

"Sometimes I used to fight them and one of them cut me with a knife on my right breast and another time when he started to rape me I tried to fight back and he used a cigarette on my right breast."

The 7pm rapes happened every night until one day Sukai heard on the soldiers' radio that her father had died.

"I started crying and screaming because I knew he had passed away because of me. There was nothing wrong with my dad. When the soldier came that night I told him `If you touch me I will fight you' but he said he wouldn't and since that day we were friends."

The soldier protected her from being raped by other soldiers by making sure that at 7pm every night she was cleaning out toilets, and one night they were talking when Sukai asked him why so many people she used to see in prison were not there any more. He said they were dead.

"So am I going to die one day?" I asked "He said `Maybe'…But I didn't do anything…"

Sukai took this plea to the President himself when he came to the prison to talk about the coup… "I said `I'm not political, I don't even have a voters card…I just took a letter…I didn't know what was in it…I don't open the letters'…He said `I know your family don't like me…I don't believe anything you say'. I knew I would never leave this place."
Sukai persuaded the soldier to go and visit her mum and children to see if they were ok, and while he was there her brother bribed him to get Sukai out of the jail. Weeks later, in a real life daring cloak and dagger experience she was sprung and on a plane to the UK.

First stop was Glasgow, then Liverpool to seek asylum, then Sukai arrived in Salford, baring all the physical and mental scars of her ordeal.

Meanwhile, back in Gambia her boss, an American citizen, was found guilty of being involved in the coup and was sentenced to twenty years hard labour. A distant cousin of hers was also found guilty. Almost seventy other people have also been named as being involved in the coup. Even if Sukai was involved, her `crime' was delivering a letter and not going to a poncy do for the President's wife. For this she was beaten, tortured and raped on a daily basis.

Sukai's story has been verified by the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, which sent her to Salford Women's Centre for counselling.  She now volunteers at the Centre working in the kitchen, gardening and doing outreach work, while longing to see her two sons who are still in Gambia… "I miss them so much" she cries.

The Home Office doesn't dispute that Sukai has been tortured, nor that she has visible marks on her body that are attributed to stab marks and cigarette burns. Yet the Home Office continues to turn down Sukai's appeals to stay in Salford, arguing that if she is sent back she will not be executed.

"If I go back to that prison it will be worse because they know I am in Britain" she says "The Home Office says that they can't kill me because my boss got 20 years hard labour. But he's an American citizen, if they kill him everyone will know. But I believe I will die."

Sukai isn't just caught up in military coups and dissidents in Gambia, she's also caught up in UK tick boxing. It's easier to send back a single woman than trying to repatriate a whole family with kids in a school and social services involved. Sukai has no kids here, no ties, so it's less embarrassing and there's less publicity if she is quietly put on a plane to her doom...to be tortured, raped and possibly `disappeared'.

But since Salford people have heard of Sukai's plight and the disgusting ordeal she's been through, and faces again, a campaign has been launched to Keep Sukai In Salford. 

Sukai has been persuaded to tell her story in graphic detail (some of which we won't even print), no matter how traumatic for her, because as she says "I have to explain to the whole world what happened to me…People must know about it, and what is happening in Gambia."

Before the `Send 'em back' brigade start spouting off, they should look at the human pain and politics behind asylum seekers' stories…If Salford was in Gambia we'd all be in prison facing torture. Criticising the Government? It's a national pastime here…

There's a KEEP SUKAI IN SALFORD meeting tomorrow, Wednesday 7th October 6:30pm Salford Women's Centre, Halton Bank M6 7AB (top of Langworthy Rd near the start of the East Lancs Rd)

For further details phone/txt 07746 731710
Send messages of protest to Immigration Minister Phil Woolas



Baba Mass (Human Rights Activist) UK wrote
at 03:42:04 on 20 February 2012
In fact Lalo I just received a call from a friend informing me that the broadcast on GRTS which featured Lalo Samateh was a memory of him for he died in 2008. I went on the web and found out it is true and here is the full story. http://tinyurl.com/6mq8xwu This is just to show everybody you are a pathetic liar and calling yourself after the dead why? Lalo was an honorable man born in Badibu Salikene where circumcision is like where I come from. It had never changed since the founding of both towns. What would you gain by lying anyway is only shame in the end. I am not saying Sukai is telling the truth for I don't know her in person but her family which I know most of whom are opposition supporters have been persecuted on many occasions by the present regime and you know that. Her grand father or grand uncle Sir Alieu S. Jack was Gambia's first speaker of Parliament during the first republic. Am sure you don't even know these. Who else would not belief her if she said what happened to her? She is in a very dangerous situation now for Gambians like the one who called me all now knew about her case much more the government of the Gambia. Now if she is sent back home You Mr. so called Lalo Samateh would be responsible for her security can you guarantee that she would be as free as the daughter of the President? Am sure your answer would be I don't know but I belief nothing would happen to her! What about Fatou Jaw Manneh who because of three sentences she wrote about the Gambian President, after going back to attend a funeral of a relative she was arrested for over a year without trial only to be later tried after pressure and found guilty ask to 250,000.00 dalasis or serve years behind the dungeon. Remember even if you hate immigrants, you are human and should have conscience. No one want strangers to take over their country I would not want any non Gambian to take over the Gambia.But will willingly welcome anyone in danger of their lives into the Gambia anytime when ever if I have the power.
Bamba Mass (Human Right Activist) UK wrote
at 17:11:54 on 19 February 2012
Hey Guys belief this so called Lalo Samateh is fake. The only Lalo Samateh Gambians knew is the one at Radio Gambia who as far as all Gambians knew, is still in the Gambia in fact he was on the GRTS show three days ago in the Gambia. Now how can this so called Mr. Mysterious claimed he is from the Gambia? Now I am taking him to task and hope he will be a real man to take it up. I am what I say I am and I can be reached on: Mobile 07526491384. Let Mr. Mysterious Lalo put a number he can be reached so as for the Salford star can arrange a sort of fact finding meeting here with you and I so as to establish the truth. The female Genital Mutilation you talking about is a most for your tribe the Mandingos if you what you said you are and yet you lying about saying it is not a force in the Gambia. Lalo if that is your name, where the Samatehs come from in Kiang, which man would want to marry an uncircumcised woman? The stigma behind it is so strong that you dare not talk about it openly and you know it. Stop lying We the Human Right group are fighting to get it eradicated by trying to educate people about it but you know what we face when we face people. How do you feel to be insulted on daily basis about something that is harmful to your society? Sukai's case has nothing to do with FGM you know it.Why would you try a squire peg in to round wholes? I belief you used the name Lalo Samateh so that some Gambians reading this would think it is a Mandingo trying so that Sukai would not get help because of the ethnic rivalry in the Gambia everything blamed on the largest tribe so that smaller tribes can join hands against them like Yahya Jammeh the president is doing in the Gambia but I am happy that you have failed because Lalo Samateh is still in the Gambia working for Yahya Jammeh's government. Even on your topic on children, in 98 out of 100 cases, most fathers retain their kids after divorce and that too you know. Stop lying.I belief you are used by the Gambia government but you and I know only the truth shall last and one day truth shall conquer over falsehood. I shall await your acceptance on this debate.
Williams wrote
at 17:52:34 on 14 February 2012
This demonstrate the hypocricy of the British authorities,this lady has the right to asylum.where is the so called human rights that the world is talking about.I belief there is no universal human rights but selective human rights.What is wrong to grant this poor lady the right to asylum,the British lived in her country of origin the Gambia for four hundred years.If the British fail to grant her to stay after their critism of poor so call human rights in the Gambia then its like the kettle calling the pot black.May justice prevail for all.
Williams wrote
at 15:59:17 on 14 February 2012
This demonstrate the hypocricy of the British authorities,this lady has the right to asylum.where is the so called human rights that the world is talking about.I belief there is no universal human rights but selective human rights.What is wrong to grant this poor lady the right to asylum,the British lived in her country of origin the Gambia for four hundred years.If the British fail to grant her to stay after their critism of poor so call human rights in the Gambia then its like the kettle calling the pot black.May justice prevail for all.
Olu Mahoney wrote
at 20:53:25 on 02 January 2011
Lalo Samateh, Your comment make me sick and I hope you are ashame of your sel.
fatima ndow wrote
at 05:27:59 on 04 November 2009
good luck sukai
Emma wrote
at 05:28:06 on 03 November 2009
Please let this woman stay, my fiance is in a similar situation, after he suffered threats from the the currect president and now he just cant go back its not possible for him to go back and keep his life, we are currently in the process of claiming Asylum. My fiance is so well educated and i know he will do well in the UK if given the chance. It makes me ill when i think of the idea of him having to go back its just not fair not when some people are actually telling the truth and then you get other people that blatently lie and get granted it. I wish you all the luck in the world darling xxxxxxxx Even tho Gambia is a lovely place there are evil people there.
TJ wrote
at 16:54:48 on 30 October 2009
please let this lady stay in UK. She seems to have a credible story and now with her been on the front pages, she will even be more trouble when is sent back home. She has given back to the community by voulnteering. I wish that the secretary of state take a second look at this case and please grant Sukai with stay base on the human rights act.
mamie sarr wrote
at 05:59:51 on 18 October 2009
good luck sukai
Sue wrote
at 12:25:13 on 16 October 2009
Good luck Sukai
Annie Ayres wrote
at 09:21:20 on 16 October 2009
Yea, Yea .... so why did she come to the UK? There were other countries that she could have safely sought asylum in on the way.
Nina wrote
at 15:50:43 on 15 October 2009
Good luck sukai
collette lees wrote
at 14:00:58 on 13 October 2009
i am in full support for sukai, i have met this lady and think she is genuine. She has helped th people of salford in the womens centre doing volunteer work. This is someone who is part of the community doing a job where she feels safe. lets protect her from her awful past and give her a permanent home where she is safe.
collette lees wrote
at 14:00:42 on 13 October 2009
I am ellie aged 2, this lady has always been kind to me and my sister. She has a smiley face and i like her. xx
at 20:40:39 on 12 October 2009
This is a serious narrative of what is definitively possible in today's Gambia.There is a rein of terror,there is fear,there is daily uncertainty about what next.Arbitrary arrests/detention,bogus charges,arson attacks and extrajudicial killings are common place.Read Amnesty's report of Nov 2008 and similar concerns raised by the European community and the US state department as well as HR groups in the west Africa subregion.Sukai's story follows a pattern similar to many i had heard and worked on as a community activist ,a Gambian and Secretary General of the Gambia Human Rights coalition(UK).I shall raise this matter in our meeting and liaise with our reporters in Gambia.
Karl Hurst wrote
at 19:56:31 on 10 October 2009
I think sukai has traveled to far just to get away from her country it seems like she has come to Britain just to take advantage of the tax payers by claiming our benifits and we dont need any more criminals if she broke the law in gambea she may do the same here.
lamin saidy wrote
at 05:19:58 on 10 October 2009
i am a Gambian citizen like sukai but i want uk immigration to think twice about this matter.i am sure that if sukai is deported to the gambia no body will ever hear or see her again. she will not go to jail but will killed by the bad goverment in the Gambia,hences she is now in the uk please grant to stay there for her life safety.
MB wrote
at 05:19:37 on 10 October 2009
For your information and for the information of the rest of the western who enjoys nothing more than Africa bashing, there exist some very patriotric Africans and gambians for that matter who will not stand by and let the name of our beloved mother land being ript apart into pieces in the name of an asylum documents to stay in the west. we African are sick tired of the western media such as your paper potraying us as subhuman. For God sake if you are going to help this poor lady whom i have every sympathy for, do it in good faith but with sensitivity, facts and respect. Yes we do not have a perfect regime in The Gambia but where can you find one?
Salford Star wrote
at 20:41:35 on 09 October 2009
Bakary (see below) - we'd love to travel to Gambia to investigate Sukai's claims but, firstly, we can't even afford the bus fare to Salford Precinct, and, secondly, er the President of Gambia said a few weeks ago that he'd kill any human rights campaigners that come near the place - nice eh? You can read about it here http://allafrica.com/stories/200910090766.html
Bakary Sanyang wrote
at 20:34:34 on 09 October 2009
I would like this Paper to travel to the Gambia to investigate her claim. Her story would attract the attention of individuals and the authorities back home
Nigel Speakman wrote
at 15:50:33 on 09 October 2009
Sukai, is not the only one to suffer at the hands of Gambia's Government. The UK Government is well aware of what is going on in the Gambia. From The Gambian President's campaign against its free press to Witch Trials, buying up all the major businesses in the country and sacking and incarcerating anyone who might be a political threat to him. Yahya Jammeh is not far off insane. He has issued death threats on Television against aid workers in the last month and he has claimed publicy to have found the cure for HIV/AIDS. The world can make their own mind up.
Lalo Samateh wrote
at 15:49:14 on 09 October 2009
This is one of the bogus asylum seekers who tried to tanish the image of the Gambia by making up stories. Am a Gambia born and breed in The Gambia. I am in UK for 10yrs now but there are alot of bogus asylum seekers from Gambians in order to stay in Uk. One or two typical examples i can give are as follows. When they come here and have female child, they claim asylum on the name of that female child that when she returns to the Gambia she will be mutilated(female circumcision). They very well know that its a crime in UK to circumcice female child. It is true that these things are being practiced in The Gambia but is not a force upon them to do it. It is a choice for the mother either to practice it on her female child or not to practice. So please dont use that to tanish the image of the Gambia using that to seek asylum. Secondly when their Visa to stay in UK expired, they tried all sort of dirty game on Home Office so they can stay in UK. Typical example of this is a woman of two kids whose husband has been denied a right to stay in Uk as a student claimed a bogus asylum that if she return to the Gambia her husband will take away her kids from her because there is no law in the Gambia as she put it. What on earth can people have the courage to denounce their soverinity in the name of asylum just to stay in the west. Am not trying to dispel mrs Jack's case but there are bad people there who tanish the image of the Gambia in name of asylum seeking.
salford star wrote
at 14:20:51 on 09 October 2009
MB (see below) - we don't want to harm the Gambia tourist industry but do you remember that Sex Pistols' song about `holidaying in other people's misery'? Suggest you have a word with the Gambian Government...
MB wrote
at 14:12:48 on 09 October 2009
Her story may be genuine but my concern is the impact this will have on the tourist industry and the ordinary Gambian. Your paper is trying to link the plight of this lady with the tourist industry.
Salford Star wrote
at 12:51:09 on 09 October 2009
See comment below - Sukai wasn't given any travel documents by the state - she was smuggled out of the country...Like we stated in the article, no-one would willingly leave their kids and family behind if it wasn't a desperate state of affairs...Sukai cries every time she thinks about them. Nor would anyone torture themselves and slash their breasts just to come to Salford, we can assure you...Salford's ace but it ain't the Promised Land!
M Bah wrote
at 12:44:12 on 09 October 2009
I am a Gambian and I know that, lot people where victimised after the attempted coup but I also know that, lot of others seize the opportunity to make unfounded allegations in order to claim asylum. I am pretty sure that, if you conduct a proper investigation of this lady's story you will find that it is completely fabricated. If this Lady was in the position she claimed she was with the state, she would not have been given travel documents nor would she have been able to secure a visa to fly out of the country. Her story is purely designed to strengthen her asylum case and in the process tarnish the country's tourist industry.
gambia4life wrote
at 12:42:22 on 09 October 2009
I cannot tell that the whole story is true,after after this publication...this girl is really in trouble now with the authorities in Gambia...she will regret for telling this story,if not given refugee status...Gambia unfortunately is the best place to go but no freedom of speech............
Musa Njie wrote
at 09:00:57 on 09 October 2009
This just one story.This is happening to hundreds of Gambians on a daily basis.I visited The Gambia yearly and cant believe what a lot of people are going through.Please do not let Sukai to go and die or else her blood will be on your hands Gordon Brown
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