SUNDAY TRIBUNE JANUARY 30, 1983

SHOOT ME!

Doctor tells how he prevented Tanzanians

From killing captured Seychelles mercenaries

 


 

By Pat Sculley

 

DESMOND FOSBERY, the man who risked his life to prevent summary execution of two mercenaries in a Seychelles hospital, this week told how he faced down a Tanzanian firing squad as they took aim at their prisoners.

 

 


 

 


The former consulting surgeon of Victoria Hospital has arrived in Durban 14 months after Mike Hoare’s botched attempt to overthrow the socialist Government of President René.

 

 He arrived aboard his ketch ‘Jaho’ en route to St Kitts West Indies.

  Fosbery, a practising Buddhist who wears a gold earring and Chinese-style khaki tunic, told how he challenged the Tanzanian soldiers to ‘shoot me first’ as he stood before the battered Aubrey Brooks and Bernard Carey who were manacled to their hospital beds.

  They didn’t. He tried to telephone President René. When he returned to the ward he found the soldiers gone and the two men alive.

   The nights of drama started with a call to treat a Tanzanian soldier for a gunshot wound.

  He thought nothing of it at the time as the Tanzanians handled their weapons carelessly and often had accidents.

   Later that first night wounded Seychellois and Tanzanian soldiers were admitted in a steady stream and treated for their injuries. The casualties had been caused by the Seychellois and Tanzanian troops firing on eachother in the mistaken belief that each other side were the mercenaries. Except for a handful, these had long since flown out on the commandeered Air India Boeing en route for Durban.

  He treated the Tanzanian and then hospital staff was told to remain on standby to treat a large number of people with gunshot wounds.

  A few nights later he was again summoned to the hospital.

  “When I got there I was taken to a ward where I found two bruised and battered white men lying manacled to their bedsteads surrounded by glowering Tanzanian military guards. I was told they were mercenaries who had been rounded up after fleeing from the airport battle.

  “Carey was in an extremely serious condition – multiple bruises and abrasions covered his head, limbs and entire body. His ribcage had been smashed in (he told me later that he had been repeatedly jumped on by the Tanzanians), and his hands were swollen from continual torture.

  “Brooks was in an equally bad shape. He had a bullet wound in the back of a thigh which had not been trteated although it was three days old, and his face was unrecognisable and grossly swollen from the battering it had received. Like Carey’s his body was a mass of  black and blue contusions and abrasions from head to foot.

  “Both men were han-cuffed to the bedhead frames with their arms stretched over their heads.

  “Despite my insistence, the guards refused to unlock the handcuffs so that I could properly attend to the prisoners’ injuries. With difficulty I carried out an operation on Brooks’s leg and bathed and dressed the men’s wounds and recommended that they be placed under intensive care.

  “Brooks asked me if I could obtain a Bible for him to read and Carey begged me to stay with them as long as I could and protect them from the Tanzanians who beat them up on the slightest pretext.

  “During the next few days, I spent as much time as I could talking to the men and comforting them. We spoke in colloquial English and the guards interrupted angrily whenever they could not understand what we were saynig.

  “From our talks, I discovered that the men were both from Natal – Brooks from Amanzimtoti and Carey from Pietermaritzburg.

  Brooks had been wounded at the airport and had wandered away from the rest of the raiders and had been left behind. Carey, his friend, had gone in search of him and also missed the Air India plane his comrades had commandeered. Brooks surrendered to the police and Carey was captured by the Tanzanian troops.

  “Both men were brutally treated by their jailers in Pointe Larue prison. They often kicked Brooks on his wound. Both had been beaten with rifle butts, kicked, punched and stripped of their clothing.

  “Brooks said they had threatened to cut off his testicles and take out his eyes. Their captors would come into their cells at all hours of the day or night and order them to stand up; if they were not quick enough in obeying orders they were kicked and punched. When it seemed if they were going to die from their injuries, they were taken to the hospital.

  “A few nights later I was again called to the hospital and on my arrival I could hear Carey calling my name at the top of his voice. Swarms of Tanzanian troops were all over the place. When I entered the mercenaries’ ward I found the nursing sisters lying face down on the floor and a squad of troops with their weapons pointing at the prisoners. The women had been ordered to lie down to avoid being hit by bullets while the mercenaries’ execution took place.

  “I could see that unless I did something quickly, the men would be killed. I leapt between the two parties with my arms outstretched and told the troops if they wanted to shoot the captives they would have to shoot me first. They shouted orders at me to stand aside but I stood my ground until an officer told them to ground arms.

  “The officer told me that if I didn’t like what was being done, then I’d better phone the President and ask him what he would like done instead. I did just that, but could not get through to President René because the line was continually engaged.

  “To my disgust, when I returned from phoning, the ward was empty. The prisoners had been taken away by the troops during my absence. I was unable to do anything further about the mercenaries for the Tanzanian army on the island are a law unto themselves.”

  Dr. Desmond Fosbery, 42, is consulting surgeon to the Government of Seychelles. He is an FRCS (Eng.) and an FRCS (Edin.). He studied at London University. He practised in the English Midlands and West Country; was a ship’s doctor on the “Orcades” (Orient Line) and was Government Surgeon on St Kitts, West Indies. He is now on a year’s furlough and is sailing his 30ft. ketch from Seychelles back to St Kitts.