By Momodou Jarju
Lieutenant Colonel Bunja Darboe, who was among the plotters of the 2006 foiled coup, has claimed that he was forced to write a speech and signed it, which was later used in court-martial as prima facie evidence against him.
The coup was planned on March 21, 2006, the day the ex-President Yahya Jammeh should return from Mauritania.
Testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commissions (TRRC) yesterday, Darboe said he was arrested after the 2006 coup plot was leaked. He added he was compelled to write a speech and read it on state television to confess for planning to overthrow the regime of ex-President Jammeh. He said the NIA conference room where he was made to read the speech was full to capacity with more than 30 people.
Darboe said the interrogation panel at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) accused him of writing a speech which was to be read when they took over power, an allegation he denied. He said the whole process was staged by the panellists to please ex-president Jammeh and misinform the Gambian people.
“There was no speech. I didn’t write any speech. There was no speech at all,” he emphasized.
Born November, 18 1968 from Faraba Banta, Darboe said there was a lot of political interference in the army and that the president made the army his own, appointing, dismissing or promoting anybody based on his whims and caprices.
“Most of the CDS (Chiefs of Defence Staff) don’t have the leverage to administer the army the way they want because of the interference. Once you are appointed as the CDS, the president has to tell you what to do.”
He said the morale of the soldiers, especially the rank and file, were not happy because they were forced to labour in president Jammeh’s farm, his bakery and rear his cattle. He said this was occurring before and during the time ex-Colonel Ndure Cham was CDS.
Darboe said Assan Sarr, former CDS before ex-colonel Ndure Cham, was fired from the army because he refused to meet a General from Pakistan, brought to serve as a military adviser, at the military headquarters because he was never informed.
He said when Ndure Cham took over the leadership of the army, he came with his mindset to overthrow ex-president Jammeh because he thought Jammeh was the problem in the country and the army in particular.
By then he wanted to resign from the army because he felt the army was no longer tenable for him, one that was not what they envisaged, but Ndure Cham persuaded him to stay and plan to overthrow ex-president Jammeh’s regime which he agreed. Ndure Cham was trying to get some form of international and national support and he informed him that most of the senior officers supported the coup.
He recalled that his refusal to go and work on Jammeh’s farm was the reason for his promotion being withheld. “Because I believe it was unlawful for me to go and work on the president’s farm… that was why some of my juniors were promoted over me.”
Darboe, who was a military assistant to CDS Ndure Cham, said about 70 people were arrested, including some civilians in connection with the coup.
He said wrongful dismissal, lack of freedom of speech, the army being politicized; some soldiers used as thugs of Yahya Jammeh, among others were part of the reasons that triggered Ndure Cham to stage a coup against Jammeh.
Darboe said Ndure Cham, Lang Tombong Tamba (deputy CDS then), Yahya Darboe, Wassa Camara, and he were part of the coup plot. He said he received a call late at night that the coup was leaked and he was advised to leave the country but he stayed to face the consequences that could be levied against him.
Justifying their course to topple Jammeh’s regime, Darboe said Jammeh’s elections victories were a farce, saying results were always rigged, thus, he had the morale obligation to dislodge a government that was unlawful and undemocratic.
He said he spoke to his friend Seckan (who was among the coup plot) via telephone call, before he was arrested by Nuha Badgie and Manlifa Corr (both members of Jammeh’s hit squad) and others at his residence in Lamin and transported to Mile II. He felt that Seckan was a traitor.
Darboe said he was escorted to cell block 5 and few minutes later, the “Jungulers” including Micheal Sang Coria, Momodou Jarju (Rambo) and two others he couldn’t remember transported him to NIA headquarters. Micheal Sang Coria placed a dagger on his throat on the journey, he said. He said they were received by one Muhammed Hydara and taken to the conference room where he was interrogated which lasted for about 6 hours.
Lang Tombong Tamba, Ousman Sonko, Inspector General of Police, Alagie Martin, Tumbul Tamba, a “junguler”, Muhammed Hydara, Momodou Lamin Ceesay, Landing Cham, from the serious crime unit and several others were among the panel. He demanded a lawyer but the request was denied, and eventually, Alagie Martin assaulted and backslapped him.
He said at the NIA, Musa Jammeh and Nuha Badgie, who he trained as a recruit plus others tortured him.
He said a plastic bag was put over his head whilst others were beating him, which almost suffocated him, gasping for air. This continued for almost one hour, and then Musa Jammeh told the torturers to finish him if he refused to comply.
At that moment I wanted to die, he said, because his body became numbed. But he was spared despite his defiance and later transported to Mile II. He said he was never tortured again until his release. Darboe and several others were pardoned in 2015 by ex-president Jammeh.
Meanwhile, Darboe who is currently serving in the Gambian army, played down claims by government at that time that Malafi Corr, Ebou Lowe, and Daba Marenah escaped while they were being transported to Janjanbureh. He said the three were severely tortured while in detention and could not have the strength to escape.