Sherrif M.L. Gomez has told the commissioners of TRRC that the actions of all the
elements of the 1994 junta in overthrowing the democratically elected
government of Ex-President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was utter betrayal of the
oath they took to defend the country and the Constitution of The Gambia.
Sherrif Gomez was testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Thursday, 10th January, 2019.
The witness who was the adjutant at Yundum Barracks from 1992 to the day of the coup was born in 1960 and lived in Bakau Newtown.
Upon completing his O.’ Levels at Nustrat High School, he joined the Gambia National Army in 1987 having got motivation from military officers like Abdoulie Conteh.
He became a cadet officer in 1988, prepared for officer training and departed the country for Pakistan Military Academy for a two year course. Upon his return in the 90s as a parachutist and a glider, he was elevated to the position of 2nd Lt. and was subsequently deployed to Liberia for a tour of duty for six months under the ECOMOG.
Creation of the GNA and the Nigerian factor
Sherrif Gomez disclosed that the Gambia National Army was created in 1984 and one of the reasons, he said, was as a result of the 1981 rebellion led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang.
He revealed that the Gambia had a Field Force prior to 1984 and when the Nigerian NATAG team arrived after the British left, the Nigerian team conducted several structural changes.
He said the Nigerian team presence in the country was a blessing in disguise to the army, adding that The Gambia National Army at the time was in transition and so many things were missing.
Sherrif Gomez revealed that there is a misconception that the Nigerians were the cause of the coup-d-etat; noting that if there was any disgruntlement, it would have been the senior officers who would have reacted but not the junior officers.
Interaction with Yahya Jammeh and cohorts prior to the coup
Sherrif Gomez told the Commission that he had skirmishes with Yahya Jammeh, Sanna Sabally and even Edward Singhateh, citing an instance when Yahya Jammeh complained about food and he reprimanded him and the issue was later resolved.
The witness disclosed that Yahya Jammeh was never a soldier and as far as he is concerned, Yahya Jammeh was never a trained soldier and he wasn’t a core army disciplined officer but a miscreant.
Sherrif Gomez disclosed that he had an issue with Sanna Sabally and he took him to task and was intending to charge him before it was overtaken by the coup.
He said Sanna Sabally was surprise because he was generally a quiet officer.
Sherrif Gomez said Edward Singhateh was very temperamental and had issues with him, and cited an instance where Singhateh said he was the most qualified officers among his colleagues as he had attended sixth form.
The witness told the Commission that he reprimanded him and told him that he (Gomez) has a Bachelors’ degree.
Rumours of coup prior to 22nd July
Sherrif Gomez told the Commission that prior to the 22nd July take over, there were rumours of coup but he was dismissive against them.
Arrival of Ex-President Jawara from the U.K.
Sherrif Gomez disclosed that while the army started preparing for the arrival of Ex-President Jawara on the 21st July 1994 and the training of the American Marine Unit, the soldiers were searched before they went to the airport and also at the airport by the Nigerian soldiers.
Sheriff Gomez stated that the search was to show to the public that the soldiers were clean and had nothing to hide, noting that even the Military Police were searched and disarmed.
The witness averred that the usual ceremony was conducted for the ex-president and he left for the State House. He drove home taking Yahya Jammeh and some other officers along to Bakau.
Sherrif Gomez disclosed that whilst inside the car he had discussion with them on the treatment of the army.
On the 22nd July, 1994
The witness disclosed that on the 22nd July 1994, he got to the barracks early in the morning and as he was passing the sentry, he noticed the manner soldier at the sentry complimented him, noting that a soldier was hesitant and accorded him a sloppy compliment.
Sherrif Gomez said he had the intention that he was going to report the soldier after settling down when he gets to his office, but as he looked ahead, he saw Yahya Jammeh and some soldiers dressed in a very manner and it dawned on him that it was part of the script training for the exercise with the American Marine Unit.
The witness disclosed that few moments after he passed the soldier at the sentry, Edward Singhateh and his group rushed to him, grabbed him and escorted him to the guardroom and locked him in the cell.
The witness revealed that upon arrival at the cell, he met one Lt. O.B. M’Bye who informed him that there was a coup
He further revealed that he had no doubt that the coup will succeed as the juntas were junior officers.
He stated that whilst in cell, Edward Singhateh rushed and shouted his name, released some rounds of gun shots and asked for the keys to the armoury.
He testified that he asked for his bag but before he could get his bag, his bag was already torn into shreds and they took the keys and went to the armoury.
The witness said few minutes later he saw Lt. Momodou Sonko who was co-opted to join them and every soldier who came was asked whether they would join them or not. Those who refused were locked up in the guardroom.
Sherrif Gomez disclosed that Yahya Jammeh made attempt to come to the guardroom and open the cell in order for him to come out, but some of his cohorts disagreed with him.
He further disclosed that whilst in detention, tidbits information was occasionally coming in, saying he wasn’t surprised by the 2nd witness (Amadou Suwareh’s) testimony.
Sherrif Gomez revealed that he was locked up from Friday, 22nd to Monday night; and thereafter transferred to the security wing at the Mile 2 Prisons. He added that Captain Ndure Cham was the one who took them from the Barracks to the security wing.
Sherrif Gomez further revealed that R.S.M Faye, AIG Chongan, then IGP, Pa Sallah Jagne, 2nd Lt. O.B. M'Bye, Captain Sam Sarr, Captain Johnson and Dibba were brought in and kept in the cell.
The witness disclosed that he was kept incommunicado for seven days until the Red Cross officials visited them and things began to change.
Sherrif Gomez stated that the cell was mosquitoes infected and the food was very poor, adding that he could not believe that anybody would be fed with that kind of food.
He said for the first seven days of his detention, he never took shower and the family never knew his whereabouts.
He further said that after sometime, Captain Ndure Cham was brought in with some people and some others were taking out.
He disclosed that in September 6th 1994, with exception of Yahya Jammeh, Sadibou Hydara, Sanna Sabally, Lt. Alagie Kanteh, Yankuba Youray and Edward Singhateh came to the security wing and recalled that he had encounter with Edward Singhateh who pointed a gun at him.
The witness revealed that he accosted Edward and asked him not to point gun at him and Edward retorted, saying the last time he shot and miss but this time he is not going to miss.
The witness disclosed that Mamat Cham, Chongan and R.S.M. Jeng were handcuffed, dragged out of their cell; got tortured.
The witness further disclosed that after Chongan and others were beaten, Singhateh shouted that they were coming for him, saying: “adjutant you are the next” and he left with his loyalists.
Sherrif Gomez said that though they never came back but the harrow feeling of the horrendous situation they lived made them sick and sleepless because they never knew when they would come.
The witness disclosed that it was respite for him when Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara were brought into security wing number one by Edward Singhateh and Alagie Martins.
He further disclosed that whilst Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara were there, he never had any interaction with them and he used to hear them crying.
He pointed out that he saw electric shock machine taken passed his cell to where Hydara and Sabally were detained and being tortured.
He opined that Sadibou Hydara must have died as a result of the torture meted on him, noting that Sadibou Hydara’s body became swollen uncontrollable after he was detained and tortured at the security wing.