Rtd. Lt. Gen. Tamba reveals he allowed 1994 ‘coupists’ to State House

Dec 15, 2020, 11:52 AM | Article By: Pa Modou Cham

Former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), Rtd. Lt. Gen. Lang Tombong Tamba, yesterday testified before the TRRC, revealing that he accepted the July 22, 1994 ‘coupists’ to take over State House because of lack of men and weapons to deny them.

Before starting his testimony, the retired army chief assured commissioners that he would speak the truth and nothing but the truth.

Born in Foni Sentit, Tamba, when testifying on whether there was a tribalism in the army, said there was nothing like that as mentioned by many witnesses.

Testifying whether the Nigerian Army banned the gendarmerie, the witness said that was impossible because the Nigerians were just present to train them and had no right on policies and decisions. He added that the gendarmerie at that time used to feel more superior to the police and army and that created more misconceptions.

"Weapons were later taken from gendarmerie to the army, of which they were not happy about."

Explaining the July 22 1994 coup, the witness stated that early July, the former President Sir Dawda traveled to U.K. and the Kingdom of Morocco. He added that he was the second in command at the State House and then he informed his commander Captain Lamin Kaba Bajo that there was a rumour that some soldiers were planning a coup.  

"I put some standby team and I prepared very strong teams, which was the escort and the fighting and headed to the airport to receive Sir Dawda. Prior to the landing of Sir Dawda's flight, I saw Yahya Jammeh with a pistol. Jammeh was questioned by the Nigerians but he replied he had all rights to be there. However, he was disarmed and sent away but he refused to go out of the airport. The president arrived and there was no guard of honour and that was how we proceeded to the State House."

At State House, he explained that he spent the night with the guards in case of anything. He added that on the following day, he wanted to go and take bath but was called by Bajo to return to State House because he was informed that the coup could take place. 

"I returned to State House and Bajo outlined a defensive plan on how to protect the territory. A message was passed to the president and the vice president. The president was advised to move to the American ambassador’s residence. It was later I saw Sir Dawda on board the US ambassador's car and Bajo went with them and upon arrival at the American boat at the seaport, he (Bajo) returned to check my plans and went back to the boat."

He stated when the coupists came closer, he saw Edward with RPG gun approaching the territory and shouted that he needed to talk to the authorities.  

"I sent staff Sgt. Bakary Camara to collect any information Edward had. Edward said he wanted to talk to Sir Dawda and I told him he wasn't around. To my surprise I saw Lt. Binneh Minteh with the opposing force (Edward's team).

The witness denied allegations that Jammeh called him to open the State House gate, saying that is false. 

"With the weapons I saw in possession of Edward and his men, I realised we wouldn't sustain them because they were armed with RPGs, machine guns and many weapons. After the negotiations with the senior officers that were with me, it was left to me to decide. I realised that defending is like killing my men because they were more armed. It was that I ordered for them to open the gates and allow them to enter."