Bairo Sabally, the 1st vice-chairmen of the erstwhile Armed Forces Provisional
Ruling Council (AFPRC) and the architect of July 22nd 1994 coup d’état
yesterday appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission
(TRRC) chaired by Dr. Lamin J. Sise.
He shed light on various issues relating to the build up to the July 22nd takeover, September 6th alleged torture of detainees at Mile 2 Prisons, November 11th foiled counter coup, assault on civilians who obstructed his convoy.
Sana B. Sabally was born on the 20th February, 1965 in Cassakunda near Brikama in West Coast Region, enlisted into the Gambia National Army as the 12th intake on the 2nd January 1989.
After his training at Yundum Barrack, he was posted to B. Company led by Major Babucarr Jatta who later became the Commander of The Gambia National Army.
He disclosed that prior to the 22nd July take over, the NATAG was in charge of The Gambia National Army and he was among those officers who were opposed to their presence in the country.
He further disclosed that the team was effective in the administrative side but very incompetent in the operation side.
He noted that the operational aspect of the training in Kudang was a failure, adding that many officers who participated in the training reacted to the training with mixed feelings.
The witness disclosed that political intolerance, soldiers pent up feelings in rat-hole situation amongst others as reasons for the coup d’état.
He stated that it was only the army that could have helped at the time as no election could have helped and that they were not happy with the status quo at the time. He said he was aware that military takeover was not allowed anywhere in the world.
He further stated that corruption was rampant at the time, citing his encounter at the Curators Office when he went to collect his late father’s pension.
He noted that the army was the watchman of the state and it was the responsibility of the army to ensure that the government maintains standards.
He said the last straw that broke the camel’s back was when he heard on Focus on Africa that the country has its defence in the hands another country.
He revealed that he felt humiliated and he started thinking about what to do and that prompted discussion with Edward Singhateh and they decided to get a better team.
He asserted that Major Ndure Cham, Lt.Basirou Barrow, Lt. Yahya Jammeh, 2nd Lts. Edward Singhateh, Yankuba Touray, Sadibou Hydara, Alagie Kanteh, Alpha Kinteh and he were the architects of the coup but later Major Ndure Cham, Lt. Basirou Barrow, 2nd Lts. Alpha Kinteh and Alagie Kanteh backed out.
He said their final meeting was held at the military police on the 20th of July, 1994 and Yahya Jammeh, Edward Singhateh, Sadibou Hydara and he were present at the meeting.
He also said they conceived the removal of the Nigerian soldiers but knew it would not be possible without removing the government that brought them so they concluded that it was best to remove the government.
Sana B. Sabally told the Commission that their plan on the 21st July, 1994 was for Edward Singhateh and Yahya Jammeh to arrest Jawara inside the airport and his role was to block all entrances to the airport.
He further told the Commission that they also planned to get ex-president Jawara at his garden but they considered that there might be huge casualties.
He disclosed that after the airport plan failed, they decided to stage a full-fledged coup and they felt if they failed they would be executed. Sana Sabally told the Commission that at the time they were not interested in positions but their target.
He asserted that on the fateful day, they learnt that Sgt. Salieu Manneh of the MTO had withdrawn all vehicles and had emptied the fuel tanks of vehicles on the orders of Lt. Basirou Barrow.
At this juncture, Sana Sabally revealed to the Commission that former vice-president, Saihou Sabally, Bakary Bunja Dabo, the then Finance Minister and Sulayman Jack, Permanent Secretary in the Jawara government were never part of the coup and that Nigerians never instigated the coup d’état.
He said on the 22nd July, they commandeered a Radvile farm vehicle which he used to travel to Abuko GAMTEL exchange, thereafter he left for Fajara barrack.
He indicated that it was whilst he had taken over Fajara barrack that he sent Abdoulie Bah and Abdoulie Dot Faal to Denton Bridge to ascertain the situation.
He further indicated that he later learnt that Jammeh and Edward Singhateh were negotiating at the bridge but later learnt that they succeeded and were heading towards the State House and were now negotiating with Lt. Lang Tombong Tamba, the State Guard commander who later surrendered to them and State House was captured.
He further revealed that Captains Sam Sarr and Sonko alias Keleyen were detailed to make the announcement of the takeover.
He further revealed that a meeting was held at the state house with senior officers where Jammeh had said that it was not going to ‘Monkey work Baboon chop.’
He said it was during that meeting that a government was formed and they distributed positions among themselves and resolved that they stay for 6 months and relinquish power to a civilian government.
He noted that they suggested civilians Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, Fafa Mbai, Susan Waffa Ogoo, Mbemba Tambedou, Amina Faal Sonko as potential candidates for ministerial positions.
He pointed out that the Americans were never involved in the coup but they had decided that Sir Dawad Jawara would return as an Elder Statesman but not as President.
He told the Commission that he had conversation with the American Ambassador, H.E. Andrew Winter whilst the vessel was around Fajara end of Gambia waters and warned the Americans to leave.
He further told the Commission that on the 25th July, being Monday, a police lady officer rushed to the state house to inform him that Chongan, then DIG of Jawara government was organizing a counter coup in his office at the police headquarters.
He said he called Sadibou Hydara who was the Interior Minister and they left for the Police headquarters and went straight to Chongan’s office, hit the door open, met Chongan, Sonko and some senior police officers and they were arrested and taken to Mile 2 Prisons.
At that juncture, Sana Sabally apologized to Chongan and those arrested and told the Commission that he had since reconciled with Chongan.
On the attack on road users and civilians perceived to be obstructing his convoy, the former vice-chairman Sana Sabally apologized to the victims.
On the 6th September, 1994, the witness told the Commission that the council received intelligence report from the late Daba Marenah that Chongan and some officers at the security wing were sending information to the diplomatic corps.
He said all the council members and their orderlies went to Mile 2 Prisons to talk to them and they were led to RSM Babucarr Jeng, Mamat Cham and Chongan.
He explained that they were dragged out of their cells by their orderlies and he admitted that the three detainees were beaten, tortured and he did the shooting to scare them. He expressed regret and accordingly apologized for what he and his team had done.