President Jawara’s bodyguard says Jammeh had attitudinal problem

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Tijan Touray, Ex-President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara’s bodyguard has told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that Yahya Jammeh was moved out of the State House due to his attitude and was not trustworthy, adding that he was not taking orders from his superior.

The witness further said that Yahya Jammeh worked like bandit and hated the Senegalese, citing an incidence at the State House where Yahya Jammeh had a brawl with Senegalese motor cycle rider.

He said the security arrangements at the State house in 1994 made it feasible for Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara.

Tijan Touray, the 9th witness made this disclosure yesterday before the said Commission in a video call testimony from the United Kingdom where he presently resides.

The witness testified that if the State House guards had put up resistance and if Ex-President Jawara had not left the State House for the American Ship, Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts would not have succeeded.

The witness disclosed that there were handful of guards who were ready to shoot at them, stressing the absence of Commander Turo Jawneh at the State House as a deadly blow to the security set up of the State House at the time.

“If Turo Jawneh was there, Jawara would not have left the State House and I know that Jammeh cannot organise a coup because he cannot organise himself,” he remarked.

The witness said Yahya Jammeh was scared of Turo Jawneh and that after Turo Jawneh left the State House, most of the guards at the State House were demoralized.

He explained that Turo Jawneh was a strong person, neat, disciplined with exceptional qualities of unifying everyone, adding that during his stint as the commanding officer at the State house, officers were very happy and proud.

He revealed that the Commander of the gendarmerie at the time was Pateh Secka, Senegalese who later left.

He said the Crack Unit started around 1987 and about eleven members were sent for crack and body guard training, noting that he was among those who were undergoing the training with the Senegambia Confederation still in place.

The witness said some members of the Crack Team were also sent to the State House of which he was among the team that was sent to State House.

The witness narrated his encounter with one Sambou Grumble, who instructed him to go to the sentry at the State House.

The witness revealed that Lt. Turo Jawneh was the commander at the State House who asked him to move in as a plain cloth officer in 1991.

The witness told the Commission that he guards the ex-President Jawara, his family and structures at the State House.

He pointed out that he was also charged with the responsibility of taking the ex-president’s children to school and his two wives; lady Njaimeh and lady Chilen.

The witness told the Commission that he was a close body guard of ex-President Jawara and mentioned his ordeal with someone who had attempted to give ex-President Jawara a letter, his subsequent appointment as an intelligent officer with the NSS after he was approached by the then director of NSS; Kebba Ceesay.

Tijan Touray disclosed that he used to travel with ex-President Jawara on oversea trips, adding that he travelled with Jawara three weeks before the 22nd July, 1994.

The witness further disclosed that they first travelled to Tunisia and then to the United Kingdom and then back to The Gambia on the 21st July, 1994.

The witness revealed that he travelled with ex-President Jawara along with Lt. Demba Njie, Lt. Kabba Bajo and Alpha Jallow his Aide-de-camp (ADC).

He told the Commission that three days before departing U.K. for The Gambia, a call came from Lang Tombong Tamba to Kabba Bajo, Demba Njie that there was an attempted coup but had been foiled.

The witness stated that the information was transmitted to ex-President Jawara but had treated same as the normal unusual rumor mongering of coups and ever ending rumours of Kukoi Samba Sanyang re-launching attack on The Gambia.

The witness told the Commission that they finally arrived on the 21st July, 1994 and as the presidential aircraft taxied at the tarmac, he was the first person who came out of the airplane; and after he observed that everything was fine he returned to ex-President Jawara to disembark.

Tijan Touray further told the Commission after alighting from the aircraft, he met Lt. Lang Tombong Tamba who instructed him to go and join the officers inside the waiting State House mini- van.

The witness told the Commission that it wasn’t right for Lang Tombong Tamba to tell him to go and join the mini-van because he normally travels with the presidential convoy to the State House.

The witness revealed that when they arrived at the airport, he observed that Yahya Jammeh, a military officer wasn’t armed but later learnt of what transpired before they landed at the airport.

The witness further revealed that 21st July, 1994 night was normal, though he wasn’t allowed to join the presidential convoy but he arrived at State House and collected luggage and left for his house at the sixth flat apartment building and did not notice anything unusual that night.

 The day of the takeover

Tijan Touray told the Commission that he arrived at the State House very early morning and saw Saihou Sabally and the news of the coup was rife that the soldiers were marching from Yundum Barracks to Banjul.

The witness further told the Commission that ex-President Jawara had entered the vehicle with his family and was driving along Wellington Street towards the port and he was driving following them until they entered inside the American Ship.

Tijan Touray disclosed that he saw Kabba Bajo who instructed him to go to the State House to see what was going on and he left for State House, and upon arrival, he saw Lt. Yahya Jammeh  and Lt. Lang Tombong Tamba having discussion but heard Lang Tombong Tamba speaking in Jola language that they are all soldiers and that it’s better to leave them.

Tijan averred that he observed at the State House that his own men (the witness’s men) wanted instructions to resist the marauding soldiers and there was no one to take charge and he then decided to take leave of the State House as he wasn’t ready to join the mutineers.

The witness revealed that at the time he went back to the port he found out that ex-President Jawara had already left the seaport with the American Ship.

The witness told the Commission that Yahya Jammeh, Edward Sighateh and the other soldiers who came to the State House turned their berets inside out and looked like rebels.

The witness disclosed that when he left the State House he went to see Alpha Jallow, the Aide-de camp of ex-President Jawara to collect his passport and told Alpha that he was not joining Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts whom he called rebels.

He explained that after Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts took over the State House, he found out that the soldiers at the State House were not familiar with him and were not his friends.

Tijan Touray further disclosed that whilst he was searching for his passport, he saw ex-President Jawara’s passport but quickly retired to his flat and met Lt. Kebba Sonko alias Scientist, Lang Tombong Tamba and one Kemesseng whom he had a brief meeting with; adding how he tried to galvanize and ginger them to launch attack and kill Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts.

The witness revealed that he was dissuaded from taking such action but to accept the situation and join Jammeh and co.

The witness disclosed that Lang Tombong Tamba informed him that Yahya Jammeh trusted him and had given him the responsibility of handling Fajara Barracks.

The witness told the Commission that he wrote a note and left it in his house, this note the witness pointed out was damaging to Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts.

He said Lang Tombong Tamba must have reported him and informed Jammeh about his comments and condemnation of the coup and his decision of not joining them.

Tijan Touray further said he was told that he was among those later charged with treason.

The witness testified that he got to Dakar through a boat and whilst in Dakar, he met Sir Dawda Jawara.

The witness revealed that whilst in Dakar he had meetings with Sir Dawda Jawara who had confirmed to him that he wasn’t happy being in the ship.

The witness further revealed that Jawara also told him about the American Ship Commander assurance of stopping the mutineers from crossing Denton Bridge.

He said Jawara also explained his frustration at the hands of the then Senegalese president, Abdou Diuof, whom he said they were not in good terms and that he hasn’t gone to Senegal to seek for political asylum.

The witness pointed out that Jawara was like being in a cage in Dakar and was so concerned about the welfare of Gambian people and was trying his best to help the Gambian people.

Tijan Touray told the Commission that ex-President Jawara stayed in Dakar until late August 1994 when he left with Alpha Jallow and others, whilst he (the witness) left with lady Njaimeh to the U.K. in September 1994.

Meanwhile, the witness explained how their food was catered for by Saihou Sabally’s in-laws whilst blaming Bakary B.Darboe, whom he said though he was in position to help Jawara but failed to do so.

Hearing continues today.

Author: Bruce Asemota