Major Suwareh explains his role in 1994 coup

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Major Amadou Suwareh, yesterday testified as the 2nd witness in the ongoing TRRC hearing at Dunes Hotel in Kololi.

The witness told the Commission his relationship with the then junta leader before the coup and the role he played in the 1994 coup-de-etat.

Mr. Suwareh said he was an instructor at the training School where he knew Yahya Jammeh and later became his company clerk at the Barracks.

He said Yahya Jammeh runs his errands as he usually cleans his booth and brew attaya for him.

The witness disclosed that Yahya Jammeh was strong headed who has problem with discipline with his senior officers.

Major Suwareh further disclosed that Yahya Jammeh usually spend more than the normal time of 8/9 hours of work with him and they used to call each other joking names. He said he would be calling Yahya Jammeh his son and Yahya Jammeh would be calling him his son too.

Security of the country as at 1994

Suwareh disclosed that as of July 1994 the general security of the country was calm but within the security services it was dicey, noting that the country having witnessed two demonstrations-mutinies over pay of allowance by some disgruntled soldiers.

Suwareh told the Commission that when the mutinies occurred, he was not present in the country but noted that the mutineers were stopped by the Gendarmerie at Denton Bridge.

Suwareh revealed that the presence of the Nigerian Army team in the country at the time brought some resentment among some officers at The Gambia National Army.

Suwareh pointed out that there was a general disgruntlement among the junior officers as they have resentment about the Nigerian team.

He said many had the conviction that they were in control and they live flamboyantly compared with their Gambian counterparts.

He revealed that on the 21 July, 1994, the TSG was tasked to provide security and at the airport he was called by Turo Janneh, the commander of the TSG who informed him that some elements in the Army were preparing to stage a coup but did not mention names.

Suwareh further revealed that they secured the Airport and some major roads, adding that at the airport, some Nigerian soldiers stripped the guard of honour of their weapons and the military police led by 2nd Lt. Yahya Jammeh were disarmed.

He said the soldiers felt they were humiliated by the Nigerian team and finally EX-President Jawara arrived and was finally taken to the State House.

Suwareh disclosed that there were frequent rumours of coup and that Kukoi Samba Sanyang was going to attack again.

Suwareh said he subsequently learnt that Yahya Jammeh and others later regrouped at night and had a meeting.

July 22nd 1994

Suwareh told the Commission that he was informed by Commander Turo Janneh about the coup and he ordered him to close Denton Bridge and shoot at sight any military officer who tries to resist.

Suwareh disclosed that as a result of the order, he asked the armourer to open the armoury and he collected arms and ammunitions and moved with the Delta Force and a platoon commanded by Benny Minteh to Denton Bridge.

At Denton Bridge, Suwareh revealed that he assembled them and briefed them of what was going on and did not convey the order to them but modified or change the order he received from his superiors.

Suwareh pointed out that he gave order to his men that they should not shoot any soldiers at sight until he gives an order for them to do so; noting that his life depended on them and their lives depended on him.

Suwareh revealed that his men accepted the modified order and he deployed them to various positions were they concealed.

Suwareh stated that he received three orders from three of his superiors; then IGP Pa Sallah Jagne, AIG Chongan and Turo Janneh, Commander of the TSG.

Suwareh disclosed that Denton Bridge was sealed as no one was unable to cross the bridge and at about 9 a.m., he saw some soldiers approached the bridge in tactical formations and they were ready for battle, noting that they had in their possession heavy and fatal weapons like bazookas, rolls of ammunitions amongst others.

Suwareh said as he stepped up to meet them, he met Corporal Tamba who looked so haggard and had alcoholic smell; and he told him that they were going on a mission in Banjul and that their officers were on their way.

Suwareh disclosed that he created a buffer zone between his men and Corporal Tamba’s men and few moments later, he saw more officers alight from GPTC buses coming towards the bridge.

Suwareh revealed that Tamba raised a white handkerchief signaling he wanted to talk to him, which he obliged and they met at the buffer zone; and at the buffer zone, Tamba told him that his father (Yahya Jammeh) said he wanted to talk to him and he (Suwareh) went to him.

On arrival, Suwareh said he met Captain Sonko alias Kankuran, Edward Sighateh and Yahya Jammeh who started ranting, saying that they wanted to take this country, that there is corruption in the PPP government and thereafter replace it with civilian government.

Suwareh pointed out that Yahya Jammeh smelled of alcohol and at this juncture, Counsel Essa Faal asked if Yahya Jammeh drinks, Suwareh replied that he knows that Yahya Jammeh drinks.

Suwareh told the Commission that he was promised a position as a cabinet minister if he joins them.

The witness revealed that Yahya Jammeh and some of his men were so drunk that if he tries to stop them, there would be carnage; noting that Yahya Jammeh’s men were more armed than his men and so he negotiated with them and advised them to move tactically to Banjul, whilst he would go ahead of them and take care of the ambushes on the way.

Suwareh said on his way to Banjul, he met with one Edward Sambou whom he told that they cannot stand Yahya Jammeh and his boys and that any attempt to stop them would bring carnage.

Suwareh further said when he arrived in Banjul, he went to the Marine Unit headed by Antouman Saho and requested for heavy weapons but was turned down.

Suwareh told the Commission that he went to the Police headquarters but did not see the IGP, Pa Sallah Jagne but met AIG Chongan and told him that he had already surrendered to Yahya Jammeh and his men, noting that Chongan refused to surrender.

Suwareh said he returned and as he was approaching Radio Syd, Yahya Jammeh and his men were around Mile 2 Prisons and he met Benny Minteh around the cotton tree near the Christian Cemetery; near Gambia High School and had conversation with him and Lt. Jarju.

He said they all finally met at the roundabout near Gambia High School and then divided themselves into two groups, one group taking the Marina Parade and the other taking the Independence Drive en-route to the State House.

Suwareh told the Commission that at the NSS headquarters, Yahya Jammeh suggested that they storm there but he discouraged him; that there was nothing they could do at the time and they continued and upon getting at the army headquarters, they found a lone Sergeant at the sentry whom they spoke to and he joined them and continued guarding the headquarters.

Suwareh revealed that they continued until they got to the State House and he (Suwareh) continued to the Police Headquarters where he met Chongan.

The witness disclosed that he returned to the State House and met Yahya Jammeh, Sadibou Hydara, Sanna Sabally. Pachal Njie, Kambi, Edward Sighateh but suddenly Edward Sighateh, Yahya Jammeh and Sanna Sabally retired into a room and had conversation and he retired to his house in Bakau.

Suwareh disclosed that Saturday morning at about 7a.m., he went to the State House to know what is going on and he was having discussion with Edward Sighateh, Yahya Jammeh, Sheriff Mbye, Lt. Ndure Cham, Pa Mbye, Sanna Sabally. He  said that people are working and they are sitting.

Suwareh revealed he insulted Sanna Sabally’s mother and they cocked their guns and they almost fought, Yahya Jammeh came and hold him whilst Sadibou Hydara and Edward Sighateh held Sanna Sabally.

Suwareh said he was given the role of Provost Marshal and he was in charge of controlling and disciplining soldiers who engage on indecent act or behaviour during the coup.

Suwareh disclosed that on the 18th August, 1994, he was appointed as Commissioner North Bank Region then Division.

Asked whether he considered his appointment as Commissioner as a reward for his role during the coup, Suwareh replied in the negative and added that he stayed as Commissioner for almost two years and was removed after he refused to carry out the orders of Yahya Jammeh. This order, he said was to tell the people of North Bank Region that Yahya Jammeh would provide electricity for them during one of his visits to the region.

Author: Bruce Asemota