By Nelson Manneh
Retired General Lang Tombong Tamba, has concluded his marathon testimony before the Truth Commission on Wednesday 16th December 2020.
According to Ex-CDS Tamba, there is no system that is perfect and the previous system where he served as CDS, was certainly not an exception; that as a human being, he has made certain mistakes during his time in office.
Ex-CDS Tamba who said he was as a member of the panel that investigated the 2006 Coup plotters, said during the investigation, the panel wanted the proceedings to be recorded; that the former President Yahya Jammeh approved for the State broadcaster be invited to film and broadcast some of the confessions publicly.
The witness said there was a day when he was informed by Tumbul Tamba, that Daba Marena, Alpha Bah, Ebou Lowe, Manlafie Corr and Alieu Ceesay, were to be transferred from Mile II, to the Janjangbureh prison and in the process, they escaped.
‘‘Tumbul Tamba told me that the president informed him for us to write a press statement to inform the public about their escape. Together with Harry Sambou, Tumbul Tamba and Ousman Sonko, we wrote the statement to inform the public about their escape at the office of the Inspector General of Police,’’ he said.
He said during the process, the former President Yahya Jammeh called him and asked whether Tumbul Tamba has informed him of what he told him and he responded in the positive; that he told the former President that they were already at the IGPs office, writing the press statement for broadcast on State media.
Ex-CDS Tamba agreed that he participated in the writing of this press release on something that he did not have an idea of, but got the directives from the former President.
The witness said he later heard that the five individuals did not escape; that instead they were killed by the ‘Junglers’; that when he heard the information that the five were killed by the ‘Junglers’, he was disappointed because Daba Marena was his friend.
Tamba said there was a time when he got information from former President Yahya Jammeh that some rebel factions were arrested and interrogated at the NIA and implicated that Sam Kambai sold weapons to them; that this was when he surrendered Sam Kambai to the NIA, in order for him to be investigated.
He said when the panel was set to investigate the matter, he (Tamba) was called and asked whether weapons were missing; that after he made audit of the Amory, he realized that no weapon was missing. The witness said he was not aware of the torturing of Sam Kambai but was later informed by the Director of NIA, that Sam was tortured; that he intervened for them to stop the torture of Kambai.
Tamba said he was not aware that members of the Armed Force were tortured at the NIA; that it was only soldiers who were arrested in connection to the 2006 Coup plot, who were tortured.
The witness said at the time of his arrest in 2009, the ‘Junglers’ who went to arrest him, did not meet him at his residence in Brusubi; that he was informed by his wife that soldiers were looking for him; that he then came back to his house and met two plain clothes officers inside his residence who told him that they came to arrest him.
‘‘I asked them who told them to come and arrest me and they told me that it was the Inspector General of Police, Essa Jesus Badjie,’’ he said.
Tamba said at the time he was a retired CDS and knew that the ‘Junglers’ who went to arrest him, were instructed by former president Yahya Jammeh; that when he was arrested, he was taken to the NIA headquarters in Banjul where he met Essa Jesus Badjie and Numo Kujabie; that after a while, he said Modou Colley and Kawsu Camara came in.
‘‘Around 1am, I was called and taken before a panel who informed me of being part of a foiled Coup. I told them that it was not true. Then they give me a form to write my statement which I did,’’ he said; that Essa Jesus Badjie told him it was former president Yahya Jammeh who established the panel. He said when he denied the allegations, he was returned to Mile II, were he spent the night.
The witness said whilst he was still in detention at Mile II prisons, he was taken from the prison to the mangrove around Bund road; that one of the soldiers who was dressed in ‘black’, asked him about his involvement in the foil Coup. He said he still maintained his position that there was no planned Coup in 2009.
The witness said from the mangroves at Bund road, he was taken to the NIA headquarters were Solo Bojang instructed the ‘Junglers’ to torture him and Bo Badjie; that the ‘Junglers’ never tortured him but informed the Commission that he pretended as if they tortured him. He said from the NIA, he was taken back to Mile II prison.
‘‘One day, late at night, I was taken from my cell to the NIA to be tortured but I was not,’’ he said.
General Tamba said during his trial, he was sentenced to death in prison. But that he blamed the Judiciary system in the country because it was the Court that sentenced him.
According to Tamba, he was offered to serve as a State witness during his trial and to testify against his fellow soldiers but he refused; that he was later pardoned by the former president Yahya Jammeh.
General Tamba in his concluding remarks, said Gambians should see their country first and be individualistic; that politics should not divide the country.
General Tamba who was the first General in the Gambia, said his desire was for him to serve his country fairly.
‘‘I want to tell the general public that what happened during my time as the CDS, was not my wish. And I seek for forgiveness,’’ he said.
The witness said he realized that most members of the Jola language grouping who were working in high ranks in the Army during former President Jammeh’s regime, are now relieved from their duties which according to him, is not fair.
He called on the current Government to reconsider this, because there was no tribalism in the country, during former president Jammeh’s regime.