Brigadier Gen. Mamat Cham says his arrest was a betrayal

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Brigadier Gen. Mamat Cham of The Gambia National Army Wednesday 16 Jan. 2019, testified as the 6th witness before the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission’s (TRRC) at Dunes Hotel in Kololi, saying his arrest was a betrayal.

The witness told the Commission that he was among the first batch of military intakes into the Gambia National Army (GNA) in 1984 when it was established by the then government.

He argued that his arrest was a betrayal, citing the manner he was tricked and taken to Mile 2 Prisons and detained at the security wing considering how and where he took the Juntas from.

He disclosed that he attended several military training courses outside The Gambia and gave a detailed account of how he rose through the ranks to become the Adjutant at Yundum Barracks, the mutiny of some GNA soldiers from Liberia in 1991 in respect of payment of their allowances, the disciplinary measures taken and his subsequent trip to Liberia as commander of The Gambia contingent.

General Cham stated that after the establishment of the GNA, the army was going through a transition and the political masters at the time felt the need to bridge the maturity gaps and then brought seasoned soldiers from Britain and thereafter the Nigerians.

The witness outlined the challenges faced by the Army at the time, citing housing, food, transportation, salary as sources of disgruntlement among the junior cadres.

He told the Commission that he attended the military exercise organised in Kudang by the Nigerian team (NATAG), noting that he was a company commander at the time.

He further told the Commission that he later learnt that some of junior officers had discussion about the exercise and there was resentment and criticism over the state of affairs.

Brigadier General Mamat Cham disclosed that he was involved in the preparation of the visiting American Marine troops.

 22nd July 1994

Brigadier Gen. Mamat Cham told the Commission that he woke up in the morning of 22nd July, 1994, prepared and got to Westfield to pick up a vehicle to go to Banjul and as he stood, Captain Kambi and Wilson picked him and around Sting Corner, he observed the traffic was so dense but progressed to the Bridge where they found soldiers from Yundum Barracks informing them about the coup and instructing them to report to Yundum Brracks.

He pointed out that the soldiers were combat ready, noting that Denton Bridge was sealed.

He stated that instead of going to Yundum Barracks they went to Fajara Barracks and at Fajara Barracks, they discovered that it has fallen, they headed for Kotu at about 10:00 a.m. where there was two Nigerian defector commanders to brief them about the situation, noting that Col. Dada, the commander was out of the jurisdiction.

The witness revealed that given the situation, Lt. Col. Salik, the commander at Farrafenni was called and instructed to mobilise some Gambian soldiers.

The witness explained that at about 2:30 p.m., Ex-president Jawara has abdicated the seat of government and had taken refuge on board the American Ship.

At this point, the witness pointed out that there was identifiable Gambia officer who wants to take charge of the country’s affairs at the time.

He noted that when the Nigerians relinquished responsibility, it created vacuum as the Nigerians didn’t want to be involved in the internal affairs of the country since they had advised them to take control of the situation.

The witness told the Commission that after the Nigerian commander abdicated responsibility to them, he went to Senegambia where they got a tourist taxi and drove to the Marine Unit at about 3 p.m. where they met Major Antouman Saho.

Brigadier General Cham told the Commission he had meeting with Major Saho and then left for the State House and met 2nd Lt. Edward Sighatey who ordered that Captain Jatta go back; and that he was not needed but asked him (the witness) to wait.

Brigadier Gen. Cham said as they were moving towards the main building inside the State House, Yahya Jammeh emerged with jujus tied all over his body.

He revealed that he had meeting with the juntas and they said they needed to set up a transitional government.

The witness told the Commission that he coined the nomenclature ‘AFPRC’: Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council.

He said whilst they were having discussion, Sana Sabally stormed the room and raised objection to the decision to set up AFPRC.

He said Sighateh and Jammeh called him aside, talked to him and later came back and informed them that the meeting was suspended.

The witness told the Commission about his interview with Radio France International and his meeting with the Senegalese ambassador to The Gambia around Denton Bridge, instructions to convey the message of the juntas to the Senegalese government.

The witness disclosed that a day after the coup, there was still negotiations between the juntas and the Senegalese government and there was a meeting between the commander of the American ship and discussions were centered on the return of Ex-president Jawara.

He said the assurance of Abdou Joof was that he would remain neutral and the sailing of the American ship sealed the fate of Ex-president Jawara and the juntas agreed to form a cabinet comprising of both military and civilians.

He named Santang Jaw, Amina Faal Sonko, Swaebou Conateh, Halifa Sallah, Sam Sarr, Ousainou Darboe and Fafa M’bai as possible nominees.

He told the Commission how they visited each of these nominees and their response and the drafting of the first speech.

He also told the Commission how he drove with Yahya Jammeh to Radio Gambia and met the anchor-Jainaba Nyang and Jammeh read the speech to the nation.

Brigadier Gen. Mamat Cham disclosed that he was appointed as the minister for tourism and culture whilst Captain Samsideen Sarr was also appointed minister and the cabinet was announced, whilst some Imams and diplomatic reps were invited to the State House and the catch words at the time was transparency, Accountability and Probity.

The witness told the Commission that after the announcement of the new government on Monday, on Tuesday he went to his ministry and met one Mr. Manneh who was the PS at the time and there after he retired to the State House.

 Brigadier Gen. Mamat Cham disclosed that he was arrested on Wednesday, the 27th July, 1994 and he was never informed for the reason of his arrest and detention, he was not allowed to see his lawyer or his family.

The witness recalled that the condition of detention was crude, noting that the ventilation was poor, with no bed-sheets, no pillows, lots of mosquitoes and rats, the food amongst others.

He told the Commission the strange visit of the juntas except Yahya Jammeh on the 6th September, 1994 to the security wing and the subsequent beatings, tortures meted on him, then AIG Chongan and RSM Jeng.

Brigadier Gen. Cham also told the Commission the event of November 11th 1994 and the arrest of both Sadibou Hydara and Sana Sabally.

Hearing continues today.

Author: Bruce Asemota