By Yankuba Jallow
Sanna B. Sabally has made some confessions before the TRRC about his involvement in the killings and gross human rights violations of soldiers and civilians during his tenure as the vice chairman of the redundant AFPRC.
He made several confessions about the killings of soldiers, pointing out that he was the commander of the operations of the AFPRC along with his colleagues and their orderlies.
About the Nigerian Soldiers
Sabally said the presence of the Nigerian soldiers (NATAG) in the command of the GNA was humiliating to Gambian officers.
“I never accepted it and I know my other colleagues did not accept it. They treated us with no dignity and the Nigerian officers used to disgrace our senior officers,” he said, adding that the Nigerians were supposed to provide training but ended up taking command of the GNA.
He said the NATAG were successful in transforming the administrative structure of the GNA but failed in terms of operations.
“The operation side was negative because they did not train us on anything we did not know. They came with expired weapons into The Gambia. They were only good in the classroom but when it comes to the ground (field) work, they were nothing,” the witness said.
He said the NATAG officers weren’t using Gambian officers as their subordinates instead they took total control of the command.
“I think they would have used Gambian officers as their subordinates so that if they complete their mission, the Gambian officers will continue from there,” Sabally said.
He said this was the time he conceived the idea to change the situation.
“This was the first reason for the coup. NATAG told us that before they leave the country that they will identify a commander in chief among senior Gambian officers. With this, our senior officers were fighting on their individual course to become the chief of defence staff while our juniors were coming to us to complain about the situation they were faced with,” the ex-junta member explained.
He said he engaged 2nd Lieutenant Edward Singhatey in discussions and this was 7 months before the coup. He described the PPP government as a very corrupt government that was characterized by political intolerance, oppression and autocracy.
July 22nd Coup Plot
He said the final meeting for the preparations of the coup was held on Wednesday the 20th July 1994 and it was attended by himself, 2nd Lieutenants Sadibou Hydara and Edward Singhatey and Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh. He said Colonel Ndour Cham and Lieutenant Basirou Barrow disclosed to them that they have withdrawn from participating in the coup making. He told the Commission that 2nd Lieutenant Yankuba Touray was a full member of the AFPRC and that he was not a co-opted member although he was in Farafenni. He said they were talking to individuals who they trusted to join them in the coup.
The objective of the Coup
He said the main objective of the coup was to remove the NATAG and this was not possible without removing the PPP government.
He said when the rumour of the coup escalated within the military command, they transferred him to Farafenni Barracks on the 18th July 1994 but he came back. He said when he arrived in Farafenni, he took an excuse from his new Nigerian commander owing to family obligations which were accepted by the commander.
He said when he came back, he was busy executing the coup plan which was scheduled to have been carried out on the 21st July 1994 at the airport where ex-President Jawara and entourage would have been arrested by them.
He explained that Edward Singhatey and Yahya Jammeh were armed and tasked to arrest ex-president Jawara whilst he was left at the Yundum Barracks to block the entrance of the airport. He said when Jammeh and Singhatey came back they informed him that they were disarmed at the airport.
“The rumour of the coup was known by the authorities but there was a failure in intelligence within the army and the NSS,” Sabally detailed.
He said when the coup failed on the 21st July, he told his colleagues that the plan must be executed or else they would be arrested by their authorities. He said at around 3 to 4 am on the 22nd July, he called Yahya Jammeh to go and collect Edward Singhatey and Sadibou Hydara and come to the Ynudum Barracks adding that he informed Jammeh that the coup must be carried out in the morning or else they would face arrest.
He detailed that before Jammeh came along with Singhatey and Hydara to the Barracks, he had already smuggled weapons out of the armoury and that the coup must be carried out. He said Lieutenant Basirou Barrow asked the person in charge of motor vehicles in the Barracks to withdraw all fuel in the military vehicles so that they won’t have any vehicles to use when embarking on the coup.
“At this time, there was no leader and we were not interested in leadership,” Sabally said adding that their target was to use military vehicles but that was not possible so they jumped over the fence and confiscated government vehicles and brought them into the Barracks and loaded them with weapons and men.
He said Alagie Sahou Sabally, an ex-vice president and minister of defence during the reign of the PPP and the NATAG played no role in the July 1994 coup.
He said each of them was tasked to execute a role adding that Yahya Jammeh and Edward Singhatey were tasked to go into Banjul and do the takeover whilst he was left behind to destroy the communication cables at GAMTEL and other places, take over the Fajara Barracks and mount a checkpoint at the airport junction, take over the police headquarters among others.
He said after successfully completing his task, he went to Banjul where he met Jammeh and the entourage had already taken over the State House. He added that senior officers in the GNA were called and addressed by Jammeh that a monkey won’t work and baboons eat.
“We left Yankuba Touray at Farafenni to delay the men whenever they are sent to reinforce the State Guard at the State House,” Sabally said. He also said that Ynakuba Touray was also part of the coup plotters.
He said Yahya Jammeh was the most senior, followed by himself, then Yankuba Touray, Sadibou Hydara and Edward Singhatey who was their most junior. He indicated that Colonel Ndour Cham could have been the chairman of the Council and Lieutenant Basirou Barrow as the vice chairman but they all rescinded to participate in the coup.
He said they formed a cabinet and civilians were identified to join their government. He indicated that Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang was identified because they wanted to gain international recognition.
Arrest of Chongan and Others
He said their arrest came about when a police officer came to the State House and informed him that Ebrima Chongan and other senior officers were holding a meeting at the police headquarters to stage a coup. He explained that he picked up Sadibou Hydara and went straight to the police headquarters and met him at that meeting.
Sabally admitted to the fact that he humiliated the officers whilst arresting them, adding them he detained them at Mile II. He said the arrested soldiers included Captain Momodou K. Sonko and other police officers.
“I apologize to them and the Gambia at large that the way and manner in which I arrested them was humiliating. It should not have happened,” he remarked.
Sabally admitted that his convoy used to assault civilians using the road whenever he feels that they were an obstacle to them.
He said on the 6th September 1994 the State House got information from one Daba Marenah, an intelligent officer that Ebrima Chongan and others who were detained at Mile II were sending information through diplomatic calls. Following this information, Sabally said he went to Mile II along with Edward Singhatey, Sadibou Hydara and Yankuba Touray as well as their guards ‘to teach them a lesson.’
He admitted ordering the torture of Ebrima Chongan, RSM Baboucar Jeng and Captain Momar O. Cham at Mile II on that day.
“They were beaten severely under my command. It was my personal decision and I was responsible for their torture. I did the shooting personally just to scare them,” Sabally said.
About the November 11 Incident
He said on the 8th November the Council (AFPRC) received a call from the then DG of NSS, Mr Samba Bah, that there was a disturbance at the Yundum Barracks. He said he led a delegation that went to the Yundum Barracks to address the men and officers to desist from the plan they were embarking on. He said he told them that anyone who persisted in carrying on with the plan will be killed. He said at this point, the officers and men at the Yundum Barracks told him that Lieutenant Basirou Barrow misinformed them that soldiers at the State House were paid D10000 each.
“I told them that anyone who wanted to overthrow our government will be killed,” Sabally said.
He said on the 10th November, he got information that soldiers have broken into the armoury and took live rounds. He added that it was at this juncture he called his colleagues and informed them about the information. He said when his colleagues came, they proceeded to the State House where they held a meeting with their chairman and head of the government then.
“Our decision was to go and meet the enemies. The decision was to go and kill the enemies,” he said.
He said many soldiers at the State Guard volunteered to join them but stopped at the Denton Bridge.
“It was only the vehicles of the council that attacked the Yundum Barracks. All those who volunteered to join us at the State House stayed back at the Denton Bridge and I did not notice when they dropped from the mission,” he said.
He said at the Yundum Barracks, they arrested Lieutenant Basirou Barrow and Abdoulie ‘Dot’ Faal.
“Lieutenant Barrow and ‘Dot’ Faal were beaten seriously because they were our enemies,” Sabally said.
He said they confiscated a book from Lieutenant Barrow which has the names of the council members and CDS Colonel Baboucar Jatta as their main targets. Sabally explained that the target of the coup makers was to arrest and execute the Council members and their families and this was written in Lieutenant Barrow’s book. He said after the coup plotter were tortured, Lieutenant Barrow and ‘Dot’ Faal were put in a cell.
He said he ordered for Lieutenant Barrow and ‘Dot’ Faal to be brought out and put into a truck and taken to the Fajara Barracks.
“I accept responsibility of the beatings of the captured soldiers because I was the commander and all other council members were under my command,” Sabally stated.
He told the Commission that CDS Jatta has not participated in the killings of the soldiers because he was not even armed.
He said after taking over the Fajara Barracks, he ordered for all captured soldiers to be lined up at the football field where two of the ring leaders – Lieutenant Barrow and ‘Dot’ Faal were killed.
“I am responsible for their killings because I was the commander,” Sabally confessed.
He said Chairman Jammeh was in agreement with the killing of the ring leaders.
“We killed them because they had the same aim and ambition tokill us,” Sabally said.
Ex-Captain Sanna Bairo Sabally said he was born on the 20th February 1965 in Kassa Kunda Village in the West Coast Region. He said after completing his secondary education in 1988, he was enlisted in the Gambia National Army on 2nd January 1989 and attached to the Yundum Barracks. He gave a rundown of his promotion from Lance Corporal, Corporal and 2nd Lieutenant. He said he went to the USA with 2nd Lieutenant Yankuba Touray for a military training course and came back in 1991.
He said he was the Support Weapon Commander until the July 22, 1994, military takeover. He added that he has held the position of military intelligence commander briefly during the era of the NATAG.
He said after serving his nine-year sentence, he fled the country due to the constant threats on his life by Brigadier-General Alagie Martins and a few other people. He said he was in Senegal from the year 2004 to 2008 when he left for the Federal Republic of Germany.
“Alagie Martins was sent to liquidate (kill) me. He even threatened my aunt living in Kafuta that I will be killed,” Sabally adduced.
He will continue today with his testimony about the execution of the captured soldiers and other related matters.
Sittings continue today at 10 am.