By Yankuba Jallow and Hatab Nyang
Three military officers have yesterday testified before a General Court-Martial at Yundum barracks in the ongoing criminal trial of 12 soldiers.
The accused persons namely, Captain Yahya Jammeh, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju, Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, Sergeant Baboucarr Sanneh, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Corporal Sulayman Sanyang, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Ebrima Jallow, Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang, Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Private Mbemba Camara and Private Alieu Sanneh, are facing trial on nine counts namely; committing a civil offence punishable under section 83 of the Gambia Armed Forces Act (GAF Act) that is to say Treason Contrary to Section 35 (1) (d), incitement to mutiny contrary to section 47 (a) of the GAF Act, failure to report mutiny contrary to section 47 (e) of GAF Act, conspiracy to commit mutiny contrary to section 47 (b) of the GAF Act, Endeavour to persuade members of the Armed Forces to take part in mutiny contrary to section 47 (c) of the GAF Act, Negligent or wilful interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 (c) of the GAF Act, Connivance of desertion contrary to section 54 (a) of the GAF Act, Connivance of desertion contrary to Section 54 (a) of the GAF Act and Negligent interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 of the GAF Act.
The General Court-Martial consists of five members headed by Colonel Salifu Bojang as President and Sainabou Ceesay-Wadda serves as the Judge Advocate.
The first prosecution witness identified himself as Colonel Essa Tamba who told the court that he works at the defence headquarters and used to be working with the guard battalion, Fajara. He said he recognised the first three accused persons and some others whose names he can’t recall. He said on the 23rd June 2017, there was a posting online and facebook that attacked his personality. He added that he convened a meeting at the Fajara Barracks to clear his reputation and also implored them that the person who did such an act will be known shortly. He said by the time, he was briefing the soldiers the first, second and third accused persons were all present.
Few moments later after the meeting, he said Emmanuel Jassey, a junior to Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju came in to his office and confessed that he took the photos but told him that he was acting under the command of Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju. He said Jassey pleaded to him to pardon him because he was acting under the command of his senior, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju.
He said after Jassey, Lieutenant Jarju came into his office and confessed to him, adding that it was satan who led him to do such act. He said he asked Lieutenant Jarju to go and he will think over the issue. He said few days later, he realised that Lieutenant Jarju as well as his colleagues were uncomfortable in the Barracks.
The witness told the court that he wrote to RNG Headquarters so that the lieutenant can be deployed to another barracks pending investigation. He said following advice from his superior, they asked him to set an inquiry to probe into the issue and after finishing the investigation they can use measures against Lieutenant Jarju. He said he complied with the advice and set-up the committee whose mandate was to look into the whole issue of the scandal.
He read the narratives that were posted on online, facebook as “I Colonel Essa Tamba who was parading myself as a national hero for the ousted former President Yahya Jammeh, am now a broke person because the coalition government bribe me D500,000 and now am broke so I go now into log selling,” he said.
“In this I felt I insulted and also this tarnished my image after serving the military for 35 years,” he said.
He told the court-martial that during his tenure as the commanding officer of the guard battalion that he has brought in tremendous developments worth over D500,000.
Defence lawyer, Sheriff Kumba Jobe asked the witness that if his testimony has something to do with the other accused persons he had not mentioned, in his response, the witness said that is not correct because they matter. On the reason for the board of inquiry, he said it was established to know exactly the reason for the posting of the pictures against him in his capacity as the commanding officer.
Lawyer Jobe still asked whether there were any documents on the reports of the inquiry board, the witness said the board could not continue with the investigation and there was no document. He (PW1) added that the investigation could not proceed because they went to an extent that they realised that there were many officers involved who are not in Fajara but other barracks. He added that he could not fully remember those who formed part of the inquiry but what he could remember was Pharing Sanyang and ex-captain Abdou Badjie were part of it.
The second prosecution witness (PW2) was Corporal Emmanuel Jatta of the Fajara barracks who told the court that he remembered most of the accused persons. He said on November 23rd 2017, the duty officer, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju whilst they were sitting and chatting at the Fajara Barracks asked him to take a photo of a vehicle standing with the logs on them. He said he only took one photo and sent it to one africell line but he quickly told the court he does not know the reason for the officer commanding asking him to take a photo of a vehicle loaded with logs.
On evidence in chief, the third prosecution witness (PW3) who identified himself as Pharing M.S. Sanyang from Fajara Barracks, said he recognised the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6thaccused persons.
He said sometime in July, he was assigned by Colonel Musa Tamba to investigate a post on facebook for which a board was set consisting of seven officers. He said he questioned Emmanuel Jatta who was alleged to be the one who took the photos and also the 2ndaccused person, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju.
He said Lieutenant Jarju told him that he did the posting to tarnish the image of Colonel Tamba because he has shifted loyalty to the coalition government and is no longer loyal to the ex-president who has sponsored his schooling. He also said Lieutenant Jarju told him it was the work of Satan that led him to do such act. He said Sergeant Baboucar Sanneh was also called for questioning. He added that Sergeant Sanneh told him that he sent the pictures to Sulayman Single Nyassi through WhatsApp. He said the phones of Sergeant Sanneh and Sergeant Yusupha Jatta’s were seized.
“From Sergeant Bubacarr Sanneh’s mobile we found out the WhatsApp group named Ajamat and he was asked what is the meaning of ‘Ajamat’ and he told us it means true friends,” he said.
He said the members of the group were using the names like tiger, eagle, lion and ‘essa-mai’ which means tiger. He added that Sergeant Sanneh told him that the formation of the group on WhatsApp was for chatting purposes and they meet at the Buffer Zone. He said then some of the members including Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Corporal Sulayman Sanyang and one Lamin Gibba were called for questioning.
He said there was a bigger body of investigators set up at the request of the Commanding Officer, Essa Tamba. He said the investigation team comprised Lieutennt Colonel Catherine Pandopy, Major Almando Sanyang, Captain Abdou Faye, Captain Amie Bah, Lietenant Yusupha Jallow and number 2 Kebbeh Samba.
At this stage the matter was adjourned till Friday 1st December 2017 at 9 am for continuation of hearing.