Thursday, April 15, 2021

Ex-Chief of Defense Staff Tamba Maintains “We did not sanction any torture”

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Ex-army general Lang Tombong Tamba on his second day before the truth commission maintained that the panel that investigated the 2006 abortive coup did not sanction the torture of any of the arrestees in connection to the coup.

Former General Tamba said the arrestees confessed voluntarily.

Prior to continuing with his testimony, Faal reminded him that he was still under oath and it was a criminal offence to lie under oath.

According to Tamba, it is not correct that he was part of the panel that interrogated the Journalist, Madi Ceesay in particular.

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Commission’s Lead Counsel Essa M. Faal confronted him with journalist Ceesay’s written statement, but General Tamba still maintains the information therein was not accurate.

The person who suffered it would rarely forget? Lawyer Faal said.

“That’s possible,” Tamba responded. 

Faal said another Journalist that was arrested in connection with the same article and tortured by the NIA was Musa Saidykhan.

Tamba said he was removed from the panel of investigators by the ex-head of state Yahya Jammeh after he told the President that former Speaker of the National Assembly – Sheriff Mustapha Dibba was not part of the coup.

Dibba was arrested in connection with the coup and was detained for some days. Tamba said his suggestion for the ex-Speaker to be released did not go down well with Jammeh who insisted that Dibba was involved in the coup.

“I was removed from the panel on the same day,” Tamba said.

Tamba adduced that ex-Lieutenant Musa Jammeh was spying for the President and was sending him information.

“I left the Panel so early and was not there when the Journalists were brought before the panel.” 

April 2006, I was already removed from the panel by the former President,” he said.

After a few arguments between Counsel and the witness, Tamba said he might forget the date he left the panel.

Tamba testified that members of Jammeh’s squadron known as Junglers were brought to the NIA where the panel was sitting by a separate authority and their responsibility was to transport accused persons to and from Mile 2.

How did you become a member of the panelists? Asked Faal.

In response, Tamba said he led the team that foiled the coup and  Bunja Darboe was the first person his team arrested.

Faal asked him who ordered them to constitute the panel; Tamba responded that it was sanctioned by the former president, Yahya Jammeh. 

To whom where you reporting? Lawyer Faal asked.

“Certainly to the Commander in Chief, the President,” Tamba retorted.

“Was there a time the President decided the inclusion of certain people?” The Lawyer asked.

“Yes because he was not satisfied with the work of the panel. He said Baba Saho and Foday Barry to be included,” Tamba said.

Tamba said the two were not in active service saying they were ‘out of service’. He added the duo was working in the NIA office before, but were co-opted into the panel. 

“There was also GRTS that was used in the work of the Panel, True/False? Faal asked.

“True,” the witness said.

According to Tamba the presence of GRTS was not sanctioned by the President, but the panel brought in GRTS to record confession of the detainees for the purpose of evidence. He added that former President Jammeh approved their request to bring in GRTS.

“What do you say to the suggestion that Martin (Alagie Martin)was sent there to serve or observe what was going on and it was not only Martin, but Musa Jammeh and Tumbul Tamba? Faal poised.

” That’s was your own suggestion counsel,” Tamba said.

“Mr. Tamba let’s be serious here, do you want us to believe that Tumbul Tamba, Alagie Martin and Musa Jammeh would come before the panel without the endorsement of the former President?” Faal asked.

Tamba said Martin statement was not part of the panel.

He said despite being the CDS of the Gambia Armed Forces, it does not necessarily mean he knows all soldiers.

“Musa Jammeh was there correct? Faal asked

“Yes,” Tamba replied.

“He was a jungler? Faal said.

“Musa was not a jungler, but a Principal Protective Officer (P.P.O),” Tamba said.

“There was Tumbul Tamba?” Counsel Faal said.

“Yes, he was there intermittently,” Tamba answered.

“Malick Jatta was there?” Faal put.

“Counsel these are junior soldiers and I was not familiar with them,” Tamba said.

The witness further testified that he knew Sanna Manjang and  Bora Colley, but he did not know Malick Jatta and Micheal Correa.

“Mr. Tamba did you have control over Bora Colley?” Faal said.

“No they were answerable to the service chiefs,” Tamba said.

“All I wanted to know was whether Bora Colley was your element?” Faal said.

“Bora Colley was under the State Guards Battalion and they have a commanding officer,” Tamba said.

He said he never knew Nuha Badjie was a Jungler.

At this juncture Faal told the witness that Junglers like Malick Jatta, Ismaila Jammeh and Amadou Sanneh all confirmed to the Commission that Nuha Badjie was a jungler.

Tamba said the NIA Officers in the panel were Baba Saho, Momodou Hydara and Foday Barry while the Police Officers were Ousman Sonko and Boto Keita. 

He said the panel members were reporting directly to former President Jammeh on daily basis.

“Who was ultimately responsible for your action at the panel?” Asked Faal.

“The President and the commander in-chief,” Tamba said.

Faal put it to him: “You are afraid to say that Yahya Jammeh was ultimately responsible of what happened at the panel.” 

After a heated debate, the witness accepted that Yahya Jammeh was ultimately responsible for the conduct of the panel.

“Tell us the role of the Panel members,” Faal probed.

“The role of the panel was to unravel the facts,” Tamba said.

Further testifying before the Commission on the modus operandi of the panel, he said if an accused person was brought before them, they just do as the TRRC is doing by allowing the accused to narrate his side of the story.

“Are you satisfied with the lawfulness of the process?” Faal asked.

“Yes,” Tamba replied.

Tamba said during the course of investigation no one should be forced or tortured.

On whether he was surprised that all the accused persons in the coup were confessing, he responded in the affirmative. 

He said the reason for bringing in Foday Barry and Baba Saho was that Tamba and team were not making a headway. 

At this juncture, Tamba said he does not think it was right for Counsel Faal to be laughing, but Faal told him that he is laughing because he wanted to lighting up the matter. 

“General are you trying to cover-up the terrible things that happened in that panel that night?” Asked Faal.

“I have nothing to cover-up,” Tamba retorted.

At this juncture, the testimony of Bunja Darboe was played for the witness. However, Tamba said the allegations of torture made by Darboe were false.

The former CDS said Bunja Darboe was not tortured during the course of the investigation. 

Lead Counsel explained to the witness that a lot of wrong things happened and the Commission is interested in the circumstances under which they happened.

Tamba insisted that confession by the coup plotters was voluntary.

Former CDS Tamba said he has no control over things that happened outside the panel.

General Tamba said the testimony of Wassa Camara that he was tortured was false. 

He added that it is further not correct that the system in place was to torture victims to get confession. 

“My interest is not on personalities, but truth and justice,” Faal told Tamba.

On whether he knew Pierre Mendy, he responded in the affirmative and described him to be a honest person.

“Do you know of any member from the GNA that was in the panel?” Faal quizzed.

 “No” Tamba sad.

Faal said over 11 witnesses appeared before the TRRC and said the same thing regarding the modus operandi of the panel. He described those   witnesses as tainted witnesses as he called on the TRRC not to rely on what they stated. 

At this juncture Hydara’s statement was put to the witness. 

Hydara intimated that he even spoke to Tamba (the witness) asking him to intervene as the  CDS by telling the Junglers to stop torturing the victims.

At this juncture Bishop Odico said the comparison of the TRRC to the 2006 Panel of Investigators at the NIA was unfair. He said the proceedings of the TRRC are all televised which wasn’t the case in their investigating in 2006. 

He therefore called on Tamba to adhere to the issues put to him by the Lead Counsel.

Chairman Sise said no matter what the witnesses does, the mandate of the Commission will be fulfilled.

He will continue with his testimony on Wednesday, 16th December at 10 am.

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