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My loyalty to the president will never change, Lang Tombong Tamba tells court

May 28, 2010, 1:37 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

"My loyalty to the President will never change until I am in my grave. I leave everything in the hands of God, who knows what is wrong and right."

These were the words of Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba on Thursday when he continued his testimony at the High Court in Banjul in the ongoing treason trial involving him and seven others.

Lang Tombong Tamba told the court that, on another day, Ebrima Sanyang (Ebrima Marreh) came to his residence in Kololi with the intention of seeing him when he did not close from work, and that his guards on duty kept Ebrima Sanyany waiting outside the compound.

"When my wife closed from work, she met Ebrima at the gate and she told the guards to drive him away. He testified that, on another day, Ebrima went to a mini-market run by his wife, and claimed to the staff there that he (Lang) was his uncle.

"During this period, Ebrima stole a cheque belonging to my wife amounting to D28, 000," he further revealed. Lang Tombong Tamba informed the court that Ebrima was able to cash the cheque at Access Bank along Kairaba Avenue. He added that Ebrima was apprehended at Kembujeh by his former driver, Corporal Beyai, and brought to his Bijilo residence, and then taken to the Fajara Barracks in Bakau for further investigation by the personnel of the National Guards at the Fajara Barracks.

"After interrogation, it was confirmed that Ebrima stole a cheque, and I was informed by the Chief of the National Guard staff that Ebrima had accepted stealing a cheque amounting to about D28, 000, belonging to my wife's mini-market," Lang Tombong told the court. 

"I cannot remember how long Ebrima was at the Fajara Barracks, but he was kept at the charge office at the Fajara Barracks," he stated.

"From that day, I did not see Ebrima again until the day of my arrest at the NIA headquarters, when I was confronted with him before the panel," Tamba adduced.

"I have not heard from Ebrima again by any means," he testified. "I have 24-hours guard duty provided by soldiers at both residences, and there were four soldiers in each of the residences.

"These soldiers were responsible for my personal protection and that of my family as well. Anybody who comes to see me is first announced to me, and following my approval to see the visitor he/she is escorted into my sitting room by the soldiers," he added.

At the end of the visit, he added, the soldiers would escort the visitor out of his compound. "It was not possible that a visitor will leave my residence without being seen off," he told the court.

"Ebrima had never visited my house in Bijilo, except the day he was arrested by Corporal Beyai and he brought him to my Bijilo residence. Before being referred to Fajara Barracks, Ebrima did not enter in my house," he added.

Lang Tombong Tamba adduced that all the description given by Ebrima about houses was not true. "I am not related to Ebrima at all," Tamba told the court.

"I had never sent Ebrima to Thies in Senegal. I did not receive any call from Thies. I had never called Ebrima at all, as I did not even know his number. I make calls outside The Gambia to many countries," he revealed.

"I made telephone calls to Guinea-Bissau in 2009; I made calls to one Mr. Jarju, an employee at the Gambia High Commission in Guinea-Bissau," he stated.

He said this was during the time of the former Chief of Defence Staff of Guinea-Bissau, when he was murdered and, as well when the former President of Guinea-Bissau was killed.

"I made and received many calls to this Mr. Jarju in order to update on the situation in Guinea-Bissau to the President and Commander-in-Chief of GAF," Lang Tombong Tamba told a crowded courtroom.

"I also made calls to Guinea-Bissau to the following people, my brother Mr. Sadibou Tamba, my nephew Mr. Salimina Sanyang and my sister Mrs. Olimatou Tamba-Sanyang in the year 2009.

On 23rd November 2009, "I was escorted by members of the investigation in the alleged coup plot to conduct a search on my two premises at Bijilo and Kololi."

"On arrival at my residence in Kololi, the team found two pairs of camouflage uniforms, some green in-shirt, camouflage in-shirt, one pair of Major rank, one pair of Lt. Col rank, one SB hunting cartridge were found in a suitcase that was packed in one of the rooms.

"I cannot remember the other items, as an inventory was not taken at the time they were found in my residence. These items were supplied to me when I was the Commander of State Guard as far back as 2004.

"When I took over as CDS of GAF and, with the approval of the President and Commander-in-Chief of GAF, distinctive uniforms were designed for the Gambia National Army and Gambia National Guard. And, as a result, I did not need those uniforms as they were not part of the new address code of GAF. I forgot them in the suitcase, where they were packed until surprisingly, on the day of this search, I came across them," the ex-armed forces chief informed the court.

"The team then proceeded to my Bijilo residence to conduct another search, and the team found a sealed carton box.

"I told the team that I did not know the contents of the cartoon. That I was told by my former military assistant, Lt. Colonel Alagie Sanneh, that he was dropping a carton at my residence in Bijilo; that it contains items from the office, and that I should take what belongs to me and return what belongs to the army," he said.

He added that "I did not see the cartoon, when it was brought, and thereby not knowing the contents. The search team requested to open the cartoon, and I accepted and inside the carton we discovered some files and various military books which belong to the Armed Forces. We also found in the same carton my personal belongings, and the searching teams took what belongs to the army, and left what belongs to me in my house."

He said the search team did not find anything at his Bijilo residence, except the carton.

Asked by the defence counsel to look at exhibit P2 and P2A, and explain to the court. In reply, Lang Tombong said these exhibits "were not found in my possession or custody at my Bijilo residence."

He also denied what PW2 Rui Jabbi Kassama said that he had paid him 30,000 Euros to train mercenaries as "lies", adding further that "I have never seen Rui Jabbi Kassama in my life; the only time I was confronted with him was during my arrest at the NIA headquarters.

"I had never promised to buy a compound for Rui in The Gambia and Guinea Bissau; I never knew Rui," Lang added.

The former CDS also denied the allegations made by PW2 (Rui). He also told the court that he did not know Kukoi Samba Sanyang?s numbers, and that "my telephone printouts show that I did not call Kukoi."

"The first time I had of 'Black Friday' was in this court," he further stated. Lang Tombong Tamba also denied the allegation of PW2 (Rui) about the reasons for the coup plot, and that he was not aware of strangers being brought to The Gambia to monitor Gambians.

"From the 10th February 2010, I the 1st, 2nd with the 5th accused persons, were taken away from our detention centre at Mile 2 to the office of the DPP, at the Ministry of Justice. While at the office of the secretary of the DPP, I was the first to be led to the DPP's office. The DPP showed me a file, and said that I was being accused of attempting to overthrow the democratically-elected government of The Gambia with others.

"The DPP said to me I and others brought a container of arms and ammunition to Guinea Bissau for the purpose of the coup, and that he (DPP) had with him all the evidence with regards to the coup plot."

The DPP further told me that "the 7th accused had been assigned to clear the container of arms at Guinea Bissau."

At the office of the DPP, Lang Tombong, continued, "the DPP produced an NIA blank witness statement form. He said to me that if I acceptmy involvement in the alleged coup plot, I (Lang) can write my statement. Then he (DPP) would release me immediately to return to my house, without returning to Mile 2, where I was detained."

"I told the DPP that I have ever been loyal to the President and Commander-in-Chief of GAF. I will never involve myself in any coup against the President," I further told the DPP, and told him to ask any member of the military.

I further told the DPP that the President has started to release others, that the 2nd, 7th and the 8th accused had been released by the President.

"The DPP told me that he had advised the President, through the Attorney-General's Chamber and Ministry of Justice, that there is a case, and that they should be prosecuted. As a result, it led to the re-arrest of the 2nd, 7th and the 8th accused persons," Lang told a crowded courtroom.

"The DPP told me that 'the choice is yours' that if I don't accept my involvement in the coup plot, I will be prosecuted and taken before a firing squad."

"I said to the DPP what I told the panel: that if I planned any coup, I will tell you to lead me to the President to apologise."

"I told the DPP that I prefer to remain at Mile 2 Central Prison rather than to tell a lie.

"I have been a CDS for three years six months, and I have all the privileged information to know all the 'sangas'. If I wanted anything, I will not use criminals and liars like Ebrima (PW1). As the former CDS, I had the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), that is, the Army, National Guard and the Navy, and if I wanted a coup I would have used the officers and soldiers under my command, rather than to go and train 300 mercenaries in a foreign land."

"As a CDS, at the time I had the entire armoury under my command. The arms and ammunitions were under my command, and if I wanted a coup I had all these to use rather than to go to a foreign land to buy arms and ammunitions.

"I have demonstrated my highest support and loyalty to the President, which goes down to my family. My wife was the President of the Soldiers Wives Association. I had worked with the first President as the second in command of the presidential guard and little was known of me, but today, thanks to God, it's because of the President and Commander-in-Chief that General Tamba was known."

"These allegations against me and seven others are a mere lie and fabrication by those individuals who wanted to distance me and separate me from the President, because of my loyalty to the President."

"My loyalty to the President will never change until I am in my grave. I have left everything in the hands of God, who knows what is wrong and right," Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba declared as he concludes his marathon testimony in his own defence, which took four days.

Justice Emmanuel Amadi adjourned the case to 31st May 2010 at 1 pm.

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