much awaited Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) commenced
sitting yesterday, 7th January 2019 at its headquarters at Dunes Hotel, Kololi with
the testimony of the former Assistant Inspector General of Police during the
erstwhile President Jawara’s government as the first witness.
TRRC) commenced, who was the assistant Inspector General of Police when the former President Yahya Jammeh and his cohort overthrew the democratically elected government of President Dawda Kairaba Jawara, in his testimony before the Commission, cataloged the events from the setting up of the Gendarmerie force, the eventual 1994 Coup-de-etat led by Yahya Jammeh and the aftermath of the coup.
The witness testified that he started his education in Basse, URR and moved to the Kombos and thereafter went to Gambia High School where he graduated and joined the Gendarmerie in 1982.
He further testified the role of the Gendarmerie during the confederation and after the confederation fell apart, the territorial Gendarmerie was created and later the Gambia National Army (GNA) which later went to Liberia for peace-enforcement.
He disclosed that the Gendarmerie was first trained by the British and thereafter by the Nigerian under the NATAG who recommended that the Gendarmerie be disbanded.
Chongan told the Commission how he had reservations about the Nigerian military here in The Gambia, noting that Yundum Barrack and the Farafenni Barrack and the training school were all headed by Nigerians and even the National Security Adviser was a Nigerian.
He further told the Commission that the Military Police to which Yahya Jammeh belonged was transformed into the Gambia National Army (GNA) and the normal Gendarmerie went to the Police Force.
The witness noted that morals were very bad as most of the junior officers at the time were demoralised and the command of the army was only vested in the Nigerians and senior officers in the army.
He said after the then Nigerian President, Ibrahim B. Babangida left office in Nigeria, his successor, late Sani Abacha changed the Nigerian military head Dada who was refusing to go and replaced him with Gwadabe.
The witness testified that on the 21st July, 1994, the American marine were supposed to have an amphibious landing around the Denton Bridge and Ex-President Jawara was also supposed to arrive from his oversea trip (UK).
The witness further testified that in the early hours of July 22nd it became evident that 2nd Lt. Yahya Jammeh and Edward Singhateh had led an army mutiny and his role at the time was to quell the mutiny.
Chongan said he didn’t give up even when he saw some members of the Tactical Support Group joined the soldiers and as he went to the Police headquarters to see the IGP, Pa Sallah Jagne he couldn’t see him, but he had a brief meeting with some senior officers and he told them that he would never be a party to a coup-de-etat.
Arrival of Sadibou Hydara and Sanna Sabally at the Police Headquarters:
The witness disclosed that whilst he was with the senior officers, Sanna Sabally kicked the door opened and entered into the office followed by Sadibou Hydara; and Sabally said no meeting and they left, but he then left the Police Headquarters and crossed over to the Fire Service and met Rex King and Roger Bakurin.
Chongan disclosed that whilst at the Fire Service, Yahya Jammeh arrived at the Police Headquarters and disarmed the Police, adding that at that particular time, he did not know where President Jawara and the IGP, Pa Sallah Jagne were.
Chongan testified that the telephone lines were disconnected and thereafter Capt. Sonko made the announcement that they have taken over the government.
He said on the 15th July 1994 whilst at the Police Headquarters with Pa Sallah Jagne, IGP, Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara arrived and grabbed them and told them that they were under arrest and were taken to Mile 2 Prisons to the security wing number 4 without any formality or processes.
He further said he was never informed about the reasons for his detention and was in complete lock down until some Red Cross officials visited them.
The witness said 29 security officials were arrested and detained, noting that Alagie Kanteh who was the AFPRC spokesman was also arrested and taken to the security wing, Ndure Cham, Mamat Cham, Samsedeen Sarr who were appointed as ministers were also arrested and taken to Mile 2 Prisons security wing.
When asked by Commission’s Counsel Edi Faal if he knows Ex-President Jammeh prior to the coup-de-etat?
The witness told the Commission that he trained Jammeh in the Gendarmerie and was residing opposite him and had knew him from Latrikunda.
Chongan said Jammeh was his junior at the Gendarmerie and was always not up to standard and was savvy, a permanent plotter, noting that Jammeh was always unkempt and of bad behaviour.
Chongan recalled that in 1987, Yahya Jammeh fought with a civilian in Basse and one Mr. Cox was the Police Commission who had insisted that Jammeh should be charged but he begged for him.
The witness disclosed that Jammeh was fond of begging and usually comes to his house begging for handouts and meals but he never knew that Jammeh would turn out to be such an evil man.
His experience at the security wing, mile 2 prisons
The witness, Ebrima Ismaila Chongan, testified that he had a traumatising moments during his detention at the security wing at the Mile 2 Prisons noting that he was beaten, tortured and sustained bruises and injuries in his body including his elbow, knee as a result of the beatings and torture meted on him by the Juntas led by Sanna Sabally.
Chongan told the Commission that he was always detained at security wing number 4 but sometime transferred to security wing number one, noting that security number one was the worst because they had to fight with the rats for food. He said that he had never seen the kind of mosquitoes he saw at the security wing number one.
He pointed out that on several occasions he was beaten, tortured and taken from security wing number 4 to security wing number one.
The witness disclosed that Sanna Sabally, Edward Singhateh, Sadibou Hydara, Yankuba Touray and some military officers carried out the torture and beatings at the security wing.
He recalled a day Yankuba Touray put a gun in his mouth and Sanna Sabally asked to say his last prayers but refused and told him that if he (Chongan) dies he would go to heaven.
He said his detention improved after Col. Babucar Jatta visited them at the security wing, noting that he was now having access to taking bath.
He also said some delegates from the International Red Cross also visited them in November 1994, and after he realised that there was attempted coup and some people were killed; and in January 1995, precisely on 27 January, 1995, he was moved from security wing number 4 to number 1.
He pointed out that on 11 November, 1994, Lt. Gibril Saye, Barrow and Deutch Fall were captured and executed.
The witness revealed that few moments later, Sadibou Hydara and Saana Sabally were brought to security wing number one by Edward Sighateh and one Alagie Marttins warrant officer at the time now Brigadier in the GNA.
He disclosed that afterwards, Sighateh and Martins came and Sadibou Hydara and Sanna Sabally were tortured in security wing number 5 in the presence of David Colley who was the 3rd in command at the Mile 2 Prisons.
Chongan testified that after the detention of Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara, the composition of the Junta changed as Lamin Kaba Bajo replaces Sadibou Hydara as the Interior minister and Edward Sighateh as the vice chairman of the AFPRC.
The witness revealed that after seven months of detention incommunicado, precisely in February, 1995, Col. Babucarr Jatta and his entourage visited them, his wife visited him for the first time at the security wing in Mile 2 Prisons.
The witness told the Commission that in February 1995, the fishing expedition of Foday Barry and Lamin Jobarteh resumed, noting that they conspired and indicted him with a trump up charge of stealing a wheelbarrow, rake and four thousand dalasi.
Chongan averred that he was arraigned before Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on charges of stealing wheelbarrow and rake; and in Banjul Magistrates’ Court, on stealing the sum of four thousand dalasi.
The witness told the Commission that ASP Kebab Dibba and Pa Sallah Jagne were also arraigned before the court.
The witness disclosed that his case moved from one magistrate to another until it finally got to Borry S. Touray who struck out the charges against him and he was released.
Questioned by one of the commissioners that he mentioned that he did not take his bath and asked whether there was no water in the Prisons?, the witness replied that it was a deliberate and calculated act not to allow him to take bath.
The witness, whilst responding to question posed by deputy chair of the Commission Adelaide Sosseh, told the Commission that the consequences of the grave torture meted out on Sadibou Hydara and Sanna Sabally may have resulted in the death of Sadibou Hydara.
Hearing continues today.