Women of Substance

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  Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim

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Deborah Mbye keeps hope alive for jailed husband Brigadier General  Omar Mbye

( OB Mbye ) sentenced to death in The Gambia.


Deborah Burns Mbye is a British citizen married to a Gambian Army General Omar Bun Mbye.  But like most women married to Gambian soldiers, her nightmares started when in 2009, Omar was arrested with Ex- Army Chief of staff Lang Tombong Tamba with six others, tried and sentenced to death for planning to overthrow President Yaya Jammeh according to the Gambia government courts. Since then, she has been trying to hold it together for Omar, praying, and doing whatever it takes to free her husband from the clutches of Gambia’s brutal dictator Yaya Jammeh but to no avail.

We talked to this sister to shed some light on her plight. She spoke to Fatou Jaw Manneh


Greetings Deborah Mbye.

Your husband Omar was 50yrs on Tuesday. We wish him a happy birthday in absentia. In a normal military world, he would be preparing for retirement, but in the Gambia, here he is sentenced to death and fighting for his survival in a Gambian jail. I am sure you miss him. How are you keeping up?


Thanks Fatou, We will catch up on all his missed birthdays when he’s released!  I’m trying to hold up and stay strong. My faith in justice keeps me motivated. My fight or flight reflexes are so highly strung that I just want to run and not stop but I can’t. I have to keep coming back to this terrible aching inside. I can feel it suffocating me and all the other wives who are endlessly fighting for their husbands lives.


He was imprisoned alongside Lang Tombong Tamba for treason correct? For planning to overthrow Yaya Jammeh?

This was the charge but there was never any plan to overthrow the president. Omar should have retired in 2010 after loyally serving his country for 25years. He had his retirement career mapped out working for the UN and was due to spend his final year studying for his Masters in UK. Why would he jeopardize the last few months of his unblemished service career? It makes no sense.


If I remember right I read from one paper that he was pardoned in 2009, is that correct? If so, why is he still in jail?

To be pardoned you have committed a crime. In 2009 there were no charges. He vanished into thin air on 20th Nov 2009. We (the family) and Omar had no idea why/where he was. He was never informed why he was detained and in early February 2010 he was released without charge. He was recalled almost immediately and 2 weeks later was informed by the former DPP (Richard Chenge) that he hadn’t ordered his release and that’s why he’d been recalled. It was at this point that Ebrima Marreh changed his statement to implicate Omar saying he remembered seeing him at one meeting. This is the one and only time that Omar was mentioned throughout the trial.


Do you believe that your husband was a in a plot to overthrow Yaya Jammeh?

I’m 100% sure that he was not part of any plot. You can ask far and wide Fatou and everyone will tell you the same about Omar. He is a highly skilled, highly trained professional officer. He served his country with honour and pride for 24years. His nickname “Super Hoah” echoed everywhere he went (His soldiers fondly called him Super Hoah. (Hoah means High Moral) He was/is a true gentleman and people view him with the utmost respect.  He would never illegally overthrow the head of state. It’s not possible.


Did you ever receive message that he was tortured?

Unfortunately we have recently had several reports that he was brutally tortured and that as we speak he’s still being held incommunicado fighting for his life.


Do you believe he will make it? Survive the brutality in Gambian prisons?

All we can do is pray for his survival. Nobody can predict the future but I stay strong in the belief that justice will prevail and he will be free.


Did you at anytime inform your government about your predicament?

I have informed my government about my predicament and Omar’s case has been raised several times in Parliament in London.


Now you like other Gambian women who have lost their husbands, sons, uncles and daughters have experienced firsthand how terrible life is under Jammeh’s dictatorship. How do you feel? This must be tough for you?

It is tough to see a man who devoted his life to his country to be languishing in squalid conditions in Mile 2. His passion for his country shone like a light from him. I shared his love and pride for his country and indeed I served as PRO for the Officers’ Wives Association for 3 yrs.


You have been soldiering on for your husband Omar, and all the other detainees of Gambia’s brutal system. What is next for you?  

Next is to wake up and find all the waiting is over and he’s free. Only that.


You think if it was your home country England, he would have been freed by now?

One simple fact Fatou. To be tried for treason you must have 2 uncorroborated witnesses. There is only one mention of him by one witness throughout the whole trial. Whether this is my home country of England or my adopted country of Gambia I still believe that justice will be done and he will be freed.


So what was the hype about catching him with a cell phone in prison?

I recently went to Dakar to raise awareness of Omar’s plight and to try to find a solution for his release. On the day I returned home to UK he disappeared from his cell. After I investigated his whereabouts we had a report that he was with the NIA and was being brutally tortured because he was phoning me passing information to the outside world. There is absolutely no truth in this and no phone or sim card were ever found.


Lang Tombong as witness said he never connived with Omar Bun Mbye to overthrow Yaya Jammeh

Even the investigating panel said he was innocent. There’s not a man alive who could truthfully tell you Omar was part of any treason plot. I quote a senior officer of GAF here when he said “Your husband has done nothing wrong. He’s just a victim of his own success” To this day I’m haunted by those words. .”He’s just a victim of his own success” For a man to be commended by the AU/UN mission in Darfur for his command of GAMCOY5 then decorated by his country for his leadership finds he’s embroiled in something inconceivable to him?? I find very hard to accept that he should be punished for his success as a dedicated army officer and I know it totally broke him to think anyone actually believed he could do this to his country.


What was their evidence against him? What made them levy those accusations against him?

There was never any evidence against him. No witness mentioned his name nor identified him in any line-up. Chief Prosecution Witness Ebrima Marreh changed his statement only after Omar was recalled by Richard Chenge (DPP) following his release without charge in February 2010. On this and only this he has been condemned to death. Only the word of a 20yr old proven pathological liar who is still incarcerated in Janjanbureh prison has changed the path of history for my Brigadier General OB Mbye. As Ramadan rapidly approaches we can only pray that we are blessed with news of his freedom.


Thanks Deborah and yes, hopefully Ramadan brings news of Omar's release. Please stay strong. God bless.

Thanks Fatou



Photo: Hi Fatou this was in Darfur. For my birthday  I got a trip to a war zone!!!