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I have never trained mercenaries - Lang Tombong

Jun 2, 2010, 12:05 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The embattled former Chief of Defece Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba, who is standing trial along with seven others, has told the court that he had never trained mercenaries in Guinea Bissau for the purpose of attacking The Gambia, as alleged.

"I had never trained mercenaries in Guinea-Bissau for the purpose of attacking my country, The Gambia, and it's mere imagination," he told the court.

He also maintained that he had never conspired with anyone to overthrow the government of The Gambia, saying: "That is a lie. I never conspired with anyone of these accused persons at Kololi or Bijilo to overthrow the democratically elected government of my brother, the President. All these allegations are fabrications to separate and distance me from the President."

Lang Tombong said this yesterday whilst he was still testifying under cross-examination by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Richard N. Chenge.

He also denied allegations that his stepfather made a charm for him to succeed in this alleged coup plot, and denied sending Ebrima Marreh to Farafenni Barracks to spy for him for the purpose of the coup plot, describing them as lies. Lang Tombong further told the court that he did not know why Ebrima Marreh went to Farafenni Barracks.

Below is the cross-examination in Question & Answer format

DPP: You as the deputy CDS, did you and Ndure Cham see off the President when he was travelling to Mauritania?

Lang: My lord, both of us were at the airport. The GRTS tape would show that both of us were at the airport on the 20th March 2006.

DPP: You gave somebody a tape to go and tape Ndure Cham on the 2006 failed coup attempt on the 20 March 2006?

Lang: My Lord, I gave 2nd Lt. Gaye a small tape recorder to record Ndure Cham's plans for the coup, as he 2nd Lt Gaye was invited by Ndure Cham for that particular mission.

DPP: You were the one who took Gaye to the house of Ndure Cham to drop him a few metres away, to tape Ndure Cham?

Lang: Yes, my Lord.

DPP: Gaye brought the tape to you?

Lang: Yes.

DPP: You did not send the surveillance team to monitor Ndure Cham?

Lang: As soon as I received the tape and listened, and knowing the plans he had that the coup will be staged at 11 pm that day, I quickly invited the State Guard Commander Brigadier General Seringe Modou Njie, the then Inspector General of Police, Hon. Ousman Sonko, Brigadier General Ousman Badjie, Captain Lamin Bo Badjie the 2nd accused in the presence of 2nd Lt. Gaye, who brought the tape. Thereafter, I planned the operation with those officers to have Ndure Cham and Bunja Darboe arrested, as these were the names mentioned in the tape at the time.

DPP: Before you dispatched that Gaye, you did not place any surveillance team?

Lang: Yes, I did not put any surveillance because I needed to confirm.

DPP: In your statement at the NIA, with regards to the failed 2006 coup attempt, you said you looked for the President, but you could not see him?

Lang: Yes, I could not meet the President myself, and I had to send one Matarr Jarju.

DPP: You paid PW1 Ebrima Marreh's fees?

Lang: Yes, I paid it at Quantum Associates.

DPP: When Ebrima Marreh took your wife's cheque, you thoroughly punished, tortured and grilled him at the army barracks?

Lang: Ebrima did not take my wife's cheque. He stole the cheque from my wife's supermarket and, as CDS, it is not my role to inflict torture and punishment, and I had no idea as to what happened to him at the barracks.

DPP: What action did you take when Ebrima Marreh stole your wife's cheque?

Lang: The action I took was to have him arrested and handed over him to those responsible at the Fajara Barracks.

DPP: In your knowledge, was he prosecuted?

Lang: He was not prosecuted for the simple reason that the Access Bank compensated my wife with the amount stolen, as they accepted the fault to have honoured the cheque when it was cashed by Ebrima Sanyang. Ebrima Sanyang is a lair and a criminal, as he lied to me as my sister's son, and stole my wife's cheque; and he can lie to this court and accuse me of plotting a coup. 

DPP: As the CDS, how much were you receiving as salary?

Lang: I don't know.

DPP: Your upstairs in Bilijo and Kololi added to your supermarket are far more than your legitimate salary for 50 years?

Lang: My lord, my story building at Bijilo is rented property by the Ministry of Defence of the Gambia (government) for me and my family, as it was a requirement for the government to provide accommodation for me as the CDS.

For the one at Kololi, its a simple house which I can afford to build, as I had served two tours of duty at the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone. My wife has been working in the supermarket business for more than 20 years, and she knows how she started the supermarket.

DPP: You said you were appointed as an ambassador to Taiwan. Did you receive your appointment letter?

Lang: Yes, my Lord, the Foreign Affairs Ministry gave me my appointment letter.

DPP: Can you produce that appointment letter in court here.

Lang: My lord, I can produce a copy through the Foreign Affairs Ministry as I cannot remember where I placed the original copy, and my former military assistant, Lt. Colonel Alagie Sanneh, can testify that he received the letter on my behalf.

DPP: Did you go for that appointment?

Lang: No, because I am presently detained at Mile 2 Central Prisons.

DPP: Were you given the very day you were arrested?

Lang: My Lord, when I met the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he told me that he was travelling, and the weekend I should have met him, was the weekend when I was arrested. That is to say, I should meet him on a Monday and I was arrested on a Friday.

DPP: You did not have any appointment, that is why you did not go?

Lang: That's a lie. I can produce a copy of the letter confirming my appointment, and I know the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs can also confirm it.

DPP: Rui Jabbi Kassama (PW2); did you have quarrels with him.

Lang: My Lord, I don't and I can't quarrel with somebody I did not know.

DPP: You did not know Rui Jabbi; how can he come here and tell lies against you?

Lang: I don't agree with the DPP. Rui is criminal and is capable of saying so, as he told this court that he was a drug dealer in United States and Guinea Bissau.

DPP: You are not the only person who left the GAF?

Lang: Yes, that's true.

DPP: Can you tell this court that Rui Jabbi Gassama travelled all the way from Guinea Bissau to the Gambia to tell lies against you?

Lang: Rui Jabbi told this court that he is a businessman dealing in all kinds of business, and lying is a business to him; as a result, that was why he lied against me of plotting a coup against the democratically elected government of the Gambia.

DPP: I am putting it to you that Rui is telling the truth; that you planned a coup.

Lang: All what Rui Jabbi said about me were lies. I have never seen or known Rui Jabbi in my life, until the 24th December 2009, when I was confronted with him before the panel investigating the alleged coup plot at the NIA headquarters.

DPP: You were calling Guinea Bissau in 2009 several times.

Lang: I told this court that I called one Mr Abdou Jarju, an employee of the Gambian Embassy in Bissau, my nephew Salima Sanyang, My brother Sadibou Tamba, and I also made calls to their former CDS, Zamora Nduta.

DPP: You have anonymous numbers that cannot be traced?

Lang: My Lord that is not true and the telephone numbers were tendered in court.

DPP: You went to Guinea-Bissau as CDS, and Kukoi was arrested and handed over to you?

Lang: It is not true; is a lie. We flew with other soldiers to Guinea-Bissau to receive Kukoi Samba Sanyang. While waiting, Kukoi arrived at the airport with Guinea Bissau authorities accompanied by ECOWAS representatives in Bissau. At the airport, Kukio refused to board the plane (Slok International) as ECOWAS representative has failed to provide his document for Kukoi's extradition to the Gambia. I reported the matter to the President and commander-in-chief of GAF, and he instructed us to return to the Gambia without Kukoi Samba Sanyang.

DPP: You want this court to believe that a person brought to the airport under arrest by Bissau authorities, and handed over to you, decided not to enter the plane?

Lang: My lord, Kukoi Samba Sanyang was not handed over to us. He was in the custody of the Bissau authorities at the airport, and we had no authority to force him to enter the plane. We would have brought him, if he was handed over to us. 

DPP: You in the Gambian delegation were waiting him (Kukoi) inside the plane to meet you people?

Lang: When we landed at Bissau airport, we disembarked from the plane, and waited for the arrival of the Bissau authorities with Kukoi. When Kokoi refused to board the plane, the Bissau authorities told us that they cannot force him to enter the plane.

DPP: You want this court to believe that a person who committed an offence against The Gambia and was brought to the airport, refused to board the flight?

Lang: Yes, I want this court to believe that Kukoi was arrested by Guinea-Bissau authorities, and brought to the airport to be handed over to us. And that following his refusal to board the plane, the same Bissau authorities decided to refuse to hand him over. That's why we finally came back to the Gambia.

DPP: When Kukoi was arrested by the Bissau authorities, they sent an invitation to receive Kukoi?

Lang: Yes, it was the same Bissau authorities who refused to hand him over to us, following his refusal to board the plane.

DPP: You were the one who asked the Bissau authorities to take Kukoi back, because you are planning a coup with him.

Lang: My Lord, that's a lie. I cannot deceive the President because I was not alone. We flew with 15 soldiers to Bissau, and throughout stayed at the airport. And if I had deceived the President for not receiving Kukoi, some of the soldiers would have informed the President about my refusal to bring him (Kukoi) back to The Gambia.

DPP: Rui Jabbi Gassama knows your house?

Lang: Rui Jabbi Gassama being a liar and criminal is capable of knowing my house. That was why, when I was confronted with him, he (Rui) gave a wrong direction and description, as I had already stated in my statement, which was tendered in court.

DPP: There is an official place of keeping uniforms of the armed forces?

Lang: My lord, I know that there is a place for keeping uniforms not issued to the members of the armed forces. I also do know that uniforms issued to the serving members of the armed forces are kept in their own way, as it falls under their custody.

DPP: Uniforms not issued by the armed forces are not kept in the private houses of the soldiers?

Lang: They are kept in stores in their various units.

DPP: All these uniforms here; you cannot keep them all.

Lang: I alone can keep all these uniforms here, as I served 23 years in the GAF. Once a personnel is transferred to another unit, he or she goes with the uniform issued to him or her.

DPP: The uniforms before this court have been issued the same date, and are new?

Lang: The uniforms were issued on different dates, and I would have used them if I continued to serve in the GAF.

DPP: After you were dismissed, some officers brought you uniforms to your house.

Lang: Yes. These uniforms were packed in a suitcase as far back as 2004 when I was the State Guard commander and I forgot to surrender them during the de-kitting exercise.

DPP: Those printouts show that Ebrima Marreh called you on your phone?

Lang: My lord, that's not true. The printouts show that Ebrima Marreh called my number for seven seconds, and I did not speak to him.

DPP: Will you be surprised that those printouts show that you answered the call for seven seconds?

Lang: I will be surprised as the printout show that the call was made for seven seconds.

DPP: Were you happy after your dismissal from GAF?

Lang: I was happy for the reason that, when I was in the service, I knew one day I have to leave.

DPP: Each of those accused persons was calling you, as shown by the printouts?

Lang: That is not true. I do know that some of them were calling me several times in 2009, the reason of which I have started earlier in the court.

DPP: Which of them was calling you in 2009, and which was not?

Lang: The 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 8th accused persons called me several times. The 7th accused called me once, the 4th accused never called me.

DPP: Can you remember the date of your father's funeral?

Lang: I can't remember the exact date, but it was in September 2009.

DPP: In your statement at the NIA, you said if you wanted to send somebody to Farafenni Barracks, you would have sent a military officer rather than Ebrima?

Lang: I did not say that, and told this court that I can't send a liar and criminal like Ebrima.

DPP: How do you know if there are changes in 'sangas'?

Lang: I have no interest to know that.

DPP: Are you surprised that Ebrima (PW1) said you called somebody from Guinea Bissau to come and collect the money for the purpose of the coup?

Lang: I never called anybody in Bissau to come and collect the money meant for any purpose.

DPP: You are telling lies before this court.

Lang: What I told this court is the truth, nothing but the truth.

DPP: You conspired with all these accused persons at your Kololi and Bijilo residences and other places to overthrow the government by force of arms.

Lang: That is a lie. I never conspired with anyone of these accused persons at Kololi or Bijilo to overthrow the democratically elected government of my brother, the President. All these allegations are mere fabrication to separate and distance me from the President.

DPP: You purchase arms in Guinea Bissau to kill your brother?

Lang: That's a lie. I never purchased weapons from Guinea Bissau, and I did not say I am going to kill my brother. That is pure imagination.

DPP: You trained mercenaries to attack The Gambia?

Lang: I had never trained mercenaries in Guinea Bissau for the purpose of attacking my country, The Gambia, and it's mere imagination.

DPP: You sent Ebrima Marreh to Farafenni to spy for you for the purpose of coup?

Lang: That's a lie. I have never sent Ebrima Marreh to spy barracks for the purpose of coup. It is mere fabrication.

DPP: Can you tell this court why you sent Ebrima Marreh to Farafenni Barracks?

Lang: My lord, I did not send Ebrima Marreh to Farafenni Barracks. I did not know why Ebrima Marreh went to Farafenni barracks.

DPP: The D5000 you received from the 8th accused person, you gave it to Ndure Cham to prepare the charms for the success of the 2006 foiled coup?

Lang: I will be surprised as such transaction does not exist. I told this court that the D5,000 taken from the 8th accused was for the purpose of the operation to foil the coup.

DPP: Your step father made a charm for you to succeed in this coup?

Lang: That is a lie

DPP: Do you know Daba Marena who was the former Director General of NIA?

Lang: Yes, my lord, I know him.

DPP: What did you do with Daba Marena about the 2006 foiled coup?

Lang: I did nothing with Daba Marena about the 2006 foiled coup.

The case was adjourned to 3rd June 2010.