Anonymous witness remembers Nov. 11 as catastrophic in GNA

Friday, January 18, 2019

 An anonymous witness who yesterday appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) said that 11th November, 1994 would ever be remembered in the annals of The Gambia National Army as one of the most catastrophic day when more than dozens soldiers were summarily executed in an extra-judicial process.

The witness further told the Commission that senior members of the Council (AFPRC) except Yahya Jammeh attacked Fajara Barracks with some elements of the State Guard and soldiers were gunned down in cold blood.

The witness who testified under cover and whose identity was kept undisclosed told the Commission that he enlisted into the Gambia National Army before the advent of July 22nd 1994 military take over which toppled the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the first  premier and president of the Republic of the Gambia.

The witness pointed out that Gambia has never suffered casualties of such magnitude, citing the execution of soldiers like Lt. Basirou Barrow, Gilbril Saye, Abdoulie Faye called Dout, Basirou Camara and one Manneh called Nyancho.

The witness revealed that these soldiers were executed in different locations, citing the Brikama Firing range, Yundum and Fajara Barracks.

The witness told the Commission that during the shooting, the then army chief of Staff, Col. Babucar Jatta and the present security adviser to President Adama Barrow were present.

He said Lt. Basirou Barrow was shot dead at Yundum Barracks, noting that some of the executed soldiers were buried at Yundum Barracks and Nyambai Forest.

Meanwhile the witness told the Commission that after he left the services of The Gambia National Army, things happened to him and were stated in his statement which he cannot disclose to the gallery or audience but urged the Commission to make effort to address the problems he raised in his statement, which was admitted and marked Exhibit 0008.

The witness, however, furnished the Commission a document containing list of people he knows must have been killed during the erstwhile Jammeh government and urged the Commission to conduct investigations.

The witness who until he finished his testimony remained anonymous sent a message to Gambian people and blamed them for what transpired during the dictatorial rule of Jammeh.

The witness said they chose Jammeh, and Gambians took him as god, noting that never again should Gambians choose anybody to be god above Gambians.

The said document was admitted and marked as Exhibit 0009.

The witness disclosed that at the time, life in the army was very interesting, adding that the Gambia National Army was a new institution as many were enthusiastic and interested in joining the Army so as people could see them wear the Uniform.

The witness further disclosed that the Army as a new institution was faced with challenges, citing the problem of accommodation, uniforms, transportation, food, salaries amongst others.

He pointed out that as the population of the soldiers was growing, their demands become increasingly high, citing lack of inadequate accommodation, the unsatisfactory and poorly served food.

The witness told the Commission that the British soldiers first came and were in charge of the GNA and thereafter the Nigerian team (NATAG).

He further told the Commission that before the NATAG came, the morals of the soldiers was high as very everybody wants to join the army.

The witness recalled that some soldiers from The Gambia National Army (GNL) were deployed to Liberia and were the first Gambian contingent to Liberia on a peace enforcement mission.

He revealed that upon their return, some of them embarked on a mutiny as a result of delay and lack of payments of their salaries and allowances.

The witness further revealed that instead of dismissing the then commander, Ndow Njie, he was deployed to France as an ambassador and replaced by Maba Jobe.

The witness disclosed that the advent of the Nigerian team brought some exceptional and significant achievements in the GNL, citing the communication amongst others.

Training at Kundang military camp

The witness disclosed that the NATAG organised a training exercise for the army in May 1994 at Kudang and soldiers were lodged at the camps, noting that soldiers were divided according to their ranks.

The witness who told the Commission that he was part of this training pointed out that the presence of NATAG served as an eye opener for officers like Lt. Basirou Barrow, 2nd Lt. Edward Sighateh, 2nd Lt. Yankuba Touray, 2ndLt. Sana Sabally, 2nd Lt. Sadibou Hydara and Lt. Yahya Jammeh who started planning to stage a coup.

The witness who also told the Commission that he participated in the said training noted that he was opportune to know that each of the participants in the meeting was given assignments as most of them were platoon commanders.

He disclosed that he was accosted and was asked to speak to some soldiers so as to galvanize more support for them.

The witness further disclosed that after the training exercise, they all returned to their respective barracks.

The event of 21st July, 1994

The witness told the Commission that on the 21st July 1994, he was not at the Banjul International Airport but was briefed of what happened at the airport regarding the manner and way some particular soldiers (names undisclosed) were disarmed.

He revealed that the operation was originally planned for the 21st July but did not happen, noting that Yahya Jammeh, Sana Sabally who were disarmed were asked to stay in their houses as a punitive measures before their fate would be decided afterwards.

The witness further revealed that they had planned to cease Ex-president Jawara whilst he was inspecting the guard of honour and take him to a particular place.

22nd July,1994

The witness told the Commission that he woke up early in the morning on the 22nd July, 1994, knowing what was going to happen and with the knowledge that a soldier was going to be sent to break the armoury.

He said upon arrival at Yundum Barracks at about 9:00 p.m. and upon ascertaining that the armoury had been broken, he met the undisclosed soldier who told him that Lt. O.B. Mbye, Adjutant Sherrif Gomez were inside the cell, he went to carry weapons.

The witness disclosed that the soldiers started moving towards the road en-route to Banjul, noting that they started ceasing vehicles particularly government vehicles.

He pointed out that some drove their ceased vehicles to fuel stations to fill their vehicles, adding that some filled petrol engine vehicles with diesel whilst others filled their diesel engine vehicles with petrol.

The witness further pointed out that he wasn’t very good in driving but he was driven by a colleague to Banjul.

The explained that on their way to Banjul, he observed that some people were jubilating on their road, people offered them water, drinks whilst others were dancing.

The witness told the Commission that they passed by a gas (fuel station) near Kamalo and collected 2nd Lt. Edward Sighateh, 2nd Lt. Sana Sabally and his group that were placed on house arrest on the 21st July, 1994 and headed for the seat of government in Banjul.

The witness further told the Commission that after assembling 2nd Lt. Edward Sighateh and co, they started moving towards Banjul and upon arrival at Denton Bridge, the group found Amadou Suwareh who approached them and spoke with Lt. Yahya Jammeh.

The witness revealed that Suwareh asked Yahay Jammeh what was going on and Yahya Jammeh replied that they were going to Banjul to take over the government.

The witness further revealed that Amadou Suwareh asked his men that had laid ambush in the grasses to come out and they did, turned their berets inside and joined the group and continued to Banjul.

The witness pointed out that Amadou Suwareh joined the group without any hesitation as they moved up to the Christian Cemetery were they separated into two groups, noting that one group to the Marina Parade and the other took the Independent Drive heading to the State House.

The witness told the Commission that as they approached the State House gate, it was flanged open by one Musa Jammeh called Malian Mogool and spoke to Yahya Jammeh in Jola language, saying ‘what are you waiting for’.

The witness pointed out that at the material time nobody claimed to be in charge or command of the soldiers as there was no plans as to what to do.

At this juncture, the witness revealed that they never thought that it would be that easy but the soldiers who played key role in the operation gathered and quickly held a meeting to decide who was going to be the chairman.

The witness said Lt. Basirou Barrou who was supposed to be the chairman was evidently absent and was ill which the witness pointed out affected the leadership.

The witness revealed that Capt. Mamat Cham, Capt. Samsideen Sarr and Major Malick Njie attended the meeting where the leadership of the Council was chosen.

He said at the meeting the chorus was for Edward Sighateh to be the chairman and next was Sana Sabally and Yahya Jammeh was mentioned but most soldiers did not know him and that the Yahya Jammeh they knew was the one who plays football and not the Yahya Jammeh alias ‘Kanilai’.

The witness disclosed that the dice was finally cast when they chose Yahya Jammeh as the chairman, being the next senior Lt. after Lt. Basirou Barrow.

He stated that Sana Sabally was given the post of Vice Chairman, Edward Sighateh was made the Defence minister, Sadibou Hydara made the minister of the Interior, Major Njie, Capt. Sam Sarr and Captain Mamat Cham were made ministers respectively.

The witness disclosed that on the 23rd July 1994, being the second day of the take-over, Captain Sam Gibba, Lt. S.P. Mendy and 2nd Lt. Yakuba Touray from the 2nd Battallion Infantry in Farafenni came to the State House and when S.P. Mendy was asked to join the Council, he declined and Yankuba Touray was then asked to join.

The witness told the Commission that Yahya Jammeh had observed that some senior officers in the likes of Mamat Cham, Sam Sarr were getting so close to them and he repeatedly was saying the adage ‘monkey work baboon eat.’

The witness disclosed that soldiers who participated in the take-over especially the NCOs had their position upgraded.

He further disclosed that there was a gentleman agreement that if the coup succeeds they will relinquish power to the Civilians after three months.

Hearing continues.disclosed that on the 23rd July 1994, being the second day of the take-over, Captain Sam Gibba, Lt. S.P. Mendy and 2nd Lt. Yakuba Touray from the 2nd Battallion Infantry in Farafenni came to the State House and when S.P. Mendy was asked to join the Council, he declined and Yankuba Touray was then asked to join.

The witness told the Commission that Yahya Jammeh had observed that some senior officers in the likes of Mamat Cham, Sam Sarr were getting so close to them and he repeatedly was saying the adage ‘monkey work baboon eat.’

The witness disclosed that soldiers who participated in the take-over especially the NCOs had their position upgraded.

He further disclosed that there was a gentleman agreement that if the coup succeeds they will relinquish power to the Civilians after three months.

Hearing continues.

Author: Bruce Asemota
Source: Picture: Lt. Basirou Barrow