It has been already more than 72 hours since the illegal arrest and detention of Sheikh Mohamed Fadel Al Mahfouz and his brother Atabou Sheikh Mahfouz. From a very well-known religious family, they originally hailed from Cassamance, Senegal and later resettled in The Gambia with their father, Sheikh Mafouz many years ago.
Sheikh Atabou is the country director for Penny Appeal, a non governmental organization that builds mosques around Africa most notably in Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Muritania and Guinea Bissau. He also runs an orphanage and provides relief support to the needy including giving out scholarship to needy families.
Family members have confirmed the disappearance of the two since last Thursday, July 9 when they were each picked up at different times from their residence on Jang Jang Road, London Corner, Serekunda by operatives of The National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Until now, family members do not know the whereabouts of the two brothers.
Sources have said that an NIA operative has hinted to the family members that Yahya Jammeh was the one who ordered for their arrest with strict warnings that the duo should not be released under any circumstances unless the directive comes directly from him.
Their brother Sarane Mahfouz Hydara is the country director of Muslim Hands, an international charity organization with an office in Gambia.
The Mahfouzs are a family of marabous and are also into charity organizations and Islamic teachings. The reason for their arrest hasn’t been established but this kind of situation is now the normal operating procedure by The Gambian authorities – people are detained on Yaya’s orders without any explanation of the reason, then once they are picked up, they are kept at a secret detention center with no access to family or lawyers while their captors, the authorities wait for Yahya to come up with a made up charge and forced witnesses to send them to prison. During this period, most are severely tortured on his orders to the point where false confessions are extracted from the victim.
The family is currently traumatized not knowing what to do or where to go. An observer notes that Yahya has now made it a point to have in the docks at least one prominent religious leader at any given time, mostly to send a clear message to the Muslim Community that he will dictate religious matters in that country and also to mystify himself further since most Gambians have the believe that these religious leaders have some hidden powers that if used can destroy someone. This, the observer said “is all part of his effort to say to an already terrorized population; I can do anything to anyone in this country including the supernaturally powerful religious leaders and nothing will come out of it”. But he concludes; “and of course this is not the case, Yahya is just a coward going after people who just cannot defend themselves because Gambians are not ready to stand up to him”
We will be monitoring this case and our esteemed readers will be updated accordingly.