By Momodou Jarju
Babucarr Jatta, the former Chief of Defense Staff has admitted before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that he failed to stop the junta members from killing eight soldiers at Fajara Barracks and Nyambia forest respectively.
Testifying on 18 April 2019, the 52nd witness of the truth commission, admitted responsibility after prolong push and pull with the lead counsel Ensa Faal about his involvement in the killings of the eight soldiers as disclosed by previous witnesses of the TRRC.
Several witnesses placed Jatta in the forest and accused him of participating in the shooting of the six (6) soldiers in Nyambia forest, but the former chief of Gambia National Army admitted joining the entourage to the forest. He however denied shooting anyone as he did not have a weapon with him, saying he was on mufti.
Jatta said he went with the entourage because he wanted to persuade Lt. Sanna Sabally and co to bar the killing but failed, saying upon his return, he told the commanding officer Captain Marong that his mission failed.
Jatta said week after the November incident, he spoke with Lt. Yahya Jammeh but never told him to investigate the matter. Lead counsel Faal said “because you are part of them,” and Jatta responded in the positive.
The two (2) deaths he admitted responsibility also was that of Lt. Abdoulie Dot Faal and Lt. Basiru Barrow.
Jatta recalled receiving a call from Lt. Sana Sabally informing him that there was a coup in the making and he was needed at the Yundum Barracks.
Ex-CDS Jatta said they reached Yundum Barracks and Lt. Sabally and Lt. Edward Singhatey spoke to the alleged coupists and warned them to desist from what they intended to do else they would be “crushed.”
Jatta said later at night, an attack occurred at Yundum Barracks and when he reached there, Lt. Sabally showed him a list said to be from Lt. Barrow’s indicating names of the Junta written in blue while his was in black. He said Lt. Sabally told him that the coupists planned to take them to the range for execution. But Jatta said he was skeptical of that information thus he didn’t worry himself.
Thereabout, he said they mobilized themselves and left for Fajara Barracks where he led about 35 men to attack the barracks. He said they made arrests, among them were Lt. Barrow and Lt. Abdoulie ‘Dot’ Faal who would later be casualties of shootings ordered by Lt. Sana Sabally. He distanced himself from the shootings. However, he took full responsibility because he was the army commander at the time.
What led to the 22 July 1994 coup?
Jatta said the military exercise they had in Kudang headed by the Nigerian army created a platform for the 22 July 1994 coup. He agreed with previous testimonies before the TRRC that some of the Nigerian soldiers were inept, adding that there was a vacuum in the command structure.
Asked whether the operation in Kudang was a success or failure, it took Jatta about 10 minutes or so before he agreed that it was a failure. At first, he said it was partly a success and partly a failure. He said the Nigerians were successful in organizing the army.
He said both the senior and junior soldiers were not happy with the coming of Nigerian soldiers (about 40 of them) to the country because they were commanding them plus there was a cultural problem that severed ties as they were shouting at them when they err.
21 July 1994
He said at this time he was a major and the army commander General Dada was removed by the government and replaced by Guadebe. He said Guadabe left for Nigeria when the coup took place.
According to him there was investigation when rumor of coup plot was circulating but it was delayed which led to the success of the coup. He said he received information that the coupists were to assassin then President Jawara and that was why they (Jammeh and Co) were disarmed at the airport.
On July 22 1994 he said he was suffering from malaria so he went to Yundum Barracks to check his status where Dr. Malick Njie gave him leave. Thereafter, he said he went to the headquarters in Banjul, but didn’t meet anyone so he left for home.
He said the following day 22 July1994, he was going to work then he learnt that there was a coup carried by his juniors. He said he met Captain Mamat Cham, Captain Ebrima Kambi and others at Denton Bridge and Captain Cham informed him about the coup and said that Lt. Peter Singhatey was in charge. He said he did not speak to the coupists.
Thereafter, he said Mamat Cham and himself went to State House to find out what was going on. He said they met Lt. Edward Singhatey who told him they have overthrown the government, saying “it was there show”.
Jatta said he left for the headquarters and later to the Marine with one Saho, then a call from State House came in ordering all officers to be at the State House for a meeting around 6pm, which they did.
At the meeting he said Lt. Yahya Jammeh threatened them to subdue which they did, addressing them that they would not relinquish power to their seniors putting it thus; “monkey work and baboon eat.”
He further said some of his colleagues were arrested and detained without trial at Mile II, among them were Chris Davies, Ebrima Kambi, Samsideen Sarr etc.
He said after the military takeover, the junta tasked him to ensure Nigerian soldiers leave the country which he did after which he was appointed commander of the army. He said the junta ruled for almost five months and managed to win the loyalty of key people in the country.
Born in 26 December 1960 at Tujereng, Jatta was among the first intake of the Gambia National Army, enlisted in 1 August 1983 and completed training in December 1983 in Farafenni.