Ex-State House driver blames foreign soldiers

Jul 14, 2020, 11:13 AM | Article By: Pa Modou Cham

Staff Sgt. Lamin Jarjue of The Gambia Armed Forces yesterday testified before the TRRC, giving accounts of series of accidents and deaths involving former President Yahya Jammeh's convoy.

He used the opportunity to cast blame on the presence of foreign soldiers in the country, saying they are not helping.

He added that soldiers will be loyal to any president who comes to office.

He thus called on the commission to investigate the 2014 coup.

After completing his secondary school at Nusrat in 2000, Jarjue joined the army where he underwent commando training and then was posted to State House.

He said he later changed from infantry soldier at State House to convoy driver, saying he was motivated by former ‘Jungler’ Bai Lowe.

He added that he trained for two years before becoming a qualified convoy driver. 

Giving the formation of the convoy, he stated that "the out rider used to be front, followed by the first sweeper, second, the media, plain clothes, the president, VIP, reserved cars, protocol, physical guides, ambulance and fire service."

He testified that he spent about three years before being a convoy driver at the Physical Guide and later promoted to plain cloth.

Mr. Jarjue told the commission that Jammeh had a reserved bulletproof vehicle.

"Whenever we were going for a tour and the advanced team told us that the road is off and is not good. When we reached for a diversion, Jammeh used to put on board my vehicle and left his car to the highway,” he said, adding he drove the ex-president on many occasions for eight years.

The TRRC witness said despite being a driver to Jammeh, he (Jammeh) didn't know him; neither approved his services as a driver.

He said the convoy drivers used to get communication through a base station and a radio set, and handheld. He added that communication breakdown used to occur when they are out of range.

He continued that the VIP vehicles couldn't use the base station as it’s only provided by handheld.

Explaining the happenings in the event of accidents by the convoy, he testified that when such things occurred, the convoy never stopped but the ambulance would stop to give a help.

Counsel Jahateh told him that some witnesses testified that the commander used to ask the ambulance not to stop when an accident occurred, however, Jarjue denied that, saying it had never happened.

"Lamin Sillah's incident is the only accident I witnessed and I was not able to see the scene. It was when we were coming from Kanilai and when we reached the turntable (round-about), I saw the accident where Lamin's car and a car belonging to one Arab knocked each other directly in the middle of the road. But we passed-by because the convoy never stopped. It was later when they found out that the Arab had died and there was an alcohol found in his vehicle."

Explaining the accident involving a driver called Foday Jawla, the witness told the commission that when they were leaving Jagil village, Foday left the road and as he was trying to get back to the road, the car somersaulted and Foday fell through the windscreen.

He continued that Foday died from the incident and Adama Jagne, a soldier and a protocol officer Fanta Jammeh got fractures.

"Cherno Jallow alias Papa Che, who was a driver also had an accident. I heard from the commander that as we were going to Kanilai and upon arrival at Busumbala, the distance Papa Che left with the other vehicle was far and another car tried to cross in between, resulting to Papa Che’s diversion and thus caused the accident. There were casualties from the van and it caused damages."

He said Musa Colley also had an accident in Lamin village after hitting a Mauritanian’s shop along the highway.

Jarjue confirmed that he never saw an accident that occurred during Jammeh's biscuit distributions.