By Yankuba Jallow & Momodou Jarju
Baboucarr Njie commonly called Njie Ponkal or Chebb by some of his colleagues in the Gambia National Army has on Monday testified that Lt Sanna Sabally was the only one who opened fire at captured soldiers at Fajara barracks during the foiled coup attempt in November 1994.
“Sanna Sabally was the only one shooting until the detainees started running,” the witness said.
About the November 11 Alleged Coup
Narrating events leading to November 11, Njie testified that Lieutenants Sanna Sabally, Yankuba Touray, Edward Singhatey and Sadibou Hydara who were all council members of the AFPRC military junta went to the Yundum Barracks to address soldiers and officers who were intending to stage a coup against their government. He said Lt. Sabally told them to desist from the coup plan because anyone who persists with the plan will face the full consequence of their own actions.
“Sanna Sabally told then that anyone who tries and then they caught him, he will pay the highest price,” the witness said.
He said Edward Singhatey also addressed the soldiers at the Yundum Barracks by telling them that anyone who wants to overthrow them would be crushed.
The witness said from the Yundum Barracks, he went to the State House where he spent time to close time and went home at Lt. Sabally’s residence where he used to live. While at home, he said Lt. Sanna Sabally forcefully opened the door of his room and asked him to dress up adding that after dressing up, Lt. Sabally asked them to load 3 vehicles with weapons including his personal vehicle.
He explained that he was the one on duty so therefore he joined Lt. Sabally’s Nissan Patrol along with Sabally. He said after loading the vehicles with weapons, they were joined by Lt. Touray and they proceeded to collect both Lt. Hydara and Singhatey. He said upon arrival at the State House, they met Chairman Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh has already assembled soldiers at the corridor of the State House and was insisting that he would join the group that will attack the camps.
“Yahya Jammeh was nervous and he was saying these guys don’t want to stop this plan,” the witness adduced.
He said it was Lt. Yankuba Touray who urged him (Chairman Jammeh) to have trust in them because they can handle the situation and it was at this point that Chairman Jammeh agreed to stay. He said after Jammeh agreed to stay, they left for the Yundum Barracks planned attack using the back gate.
He explained that they used feeder roads in Abuko and Banjulinding to reach the Yundum Barracks.
“We entered through the back gate of Yundum Barracks without any resistance,” the witness said.
He said sometime later, Lt. Basirou Barrow (believe to be part of the purported coup plot) was caught by the Junta members and orderlies who were torturing him mercilessly until his voice couldn’t be heard.
“You can see a lot of soldiers surrounding him and they were beating and kicking him. I hear him (Lt. Barrow) saying ‘you people are killing me’ in a low tone,” the witness said.
He adduced that Lieutenant Abdoulie ‘Dot’ Faal was caught and treated in a similar manner.
“Both Lieutenant Barrow and ‘Dot’ Faal were unconscious and motionless,” the witness said.
He said they were put in a cell at a Guard Room and later put into a truck along with other captured soldiers. He said after these captured soldiers were put in a truck, Lt. Edward Singhatey made a suggestion to Lt. Sanna Sabally to allow him release a grenade that will finish them (all the captured soldiers in the truck), but Lt. Sabally refused the suggestion.
“Edward removed a grenade and wanted to release it to the captured soldiers in the truck but Sanna Sabally grabbed him and there was a scuffle between them. Sanna Sabally told Edward that these men won’t be killed instead they should be taken to Mile II,” the witness said.
The witness added that Lt. Singhatey came up with another suggestion that he should be allowed to put these men in a store and blow them all up, but this one was also refused by Sanna Sabally.
He said after this, they proceeded to the Fajara Barracks and entered through the back gate adding that here they received some resistance from soldiers within the Barracks but they were able to overcome them.
He said during the early hours of the morning, Lt. Sabally asked them to bring all the captured soldiers and line them up at the football field at the Fajara Barracks. He said the truck carrying Lieutenants Barrow, ‘Dot’ Faal and others was also brought.
“Sanna Sabally asked them to make a single line at the football field in a straight line facing the residential area (of the Barracks).
“He (Sabally) asked them to say their last prayers and after saying their last prayers Sanna Sabally started shooting at them indirectly; very close to them in a sporadic shooting. We called the shooting automatic shooting,” the witness stated.
He told the Commission that Sanna Sabally was the only one who shot at the captured soldiers and no one else released any gun shots at the captured men. He said Sabally shot at ‘Dot’ Faal on his leg and he fell down and the others started screaming.
“Sanna Sabally was the only one shooting until the detainees started running,” the witness said.
He disputed the fact that all those present were shooting at the captured soldiers.
“Counsel, if we were all shooting at these men why is it that only two people died. That is not possible for the orderlies and Council members all to shoot these people and only kill two of them,” he said.
He said if all those present at the football field had fired at the captured soldiers, then all of them would have died.
“Why do we have only 2 casualties? If we all had shot, then the causalities would have been more than two? How can we all shot at them and only two people were gun down,” he maintained.
The Commission played videos of Ensa Mendy and JCB Mendy who were all witnesses before the TRRC admitting participating in the firing of the captured soldiers at the Fajara Barracks football field.
The witness maintained his position that it was only Sanna Sabally who fired at the captured soldiers and killed two of them. He said the killing of Lt. Barrow was not in his presence adding that he was not present at the time Lt. Sabally gave an order for all the men to shoot the captured soldiers.
He said while Sabally was shooting, one soldier escaped and he was ordered to go along with Tumboul Tamba to get him and this was before Lt. Barrow was killed. He said they did not see the escaped soldier (Sir Jakal) and returned to the Barracks and met Sabally and the team.
He said they left the Fajara Barracks and proceeded to the Yundum Barracks.
“I don’t witness any killings at the Yundum Barracks,” the witness said.
Videos of Baboucar Mboob, Sait Darboe, Alagie Kanyi, and Modou Lamn Bah who told the TRRC that he was part of the execution squad that went to the range around Siffoe was played for the gallery to watch, but the witness said their testimonies weren’t accurate.
“I did not participate in the execution at the range nor do I have knowledge about their execution,” the witness stressed.
He said during those days, he was excused by Sanna Sabally to go home owing to his hand injury that he sustained from his fall in drainage at the Fajara Barracks.
He admitted torturing civilians but it was under the instruction of his boss- Sanna Sabally. He said Sabally gave them instructions to shoot tires of civilian vehicles that block his entourage.
“Usually civilian vehicles tires were being busted if they blocked our entourage. I once slapped a civilian who blocked us,” he confessed.
He said there was a day when he went with JCB Mendy and picked up a civilian and brought him to Sabally’s residence and tortured him mercilessly.
“I gave him lashes at his back,” the witness admitted.
Njie said he was arrested in the aftermath of the arrest of Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara. He said he was detained for 2 years at Mile II and was released unconditionally.
He said he was an orderly and personal protection officer to Lieutenant Colonel Odu of NATAG until 1994 coup. After the July coup, he said, he was assigned to be an orderly to council vice chairman Lt. Sanna Sabally.
After the coup, he said Lt. Edward Singhatey asked him to accompany Samsideen Sarr, army officer, to announce the takeover to the general public at Radio Gambia. He said he was stationed at Radio Gambia to protect the staff of the national broadcaster, to and from work.
Then, he was called by Sanna and made him his orderly. He said he was responsible to take care of Sabally’s boot safe.
Mile II 1994
He said it was in one evening after 10pm, when their boss, Sabally, asked them to follow him without telling them where. He said they were with the council members and their orderlies, bodyguards and drivers, plus Lt. Peter Singhatey and others. He said this was few months after his assignment as an orderly to Sabally on 6 September 1994.
According to him, they were all armed and he was carrying AK47 that could launch a grenade, dubbed a PGL- Portable Grenade Launcher.
He said they entered Mile II prison and headed to the confinement wing 5 where detainees arrested during the coup were kept. He said Sabally instructed them, the orderlies and bodyguards, to move the detainees to confinement wing one.
He said he remembered Ebrima Chongan and Mamat Cham, currently a general, among the detainees.
Explaining his involvement, Njie said he dragged the person he couldn’t recall up to the wall opposite the confinement wing one.
He said he didn’t beat the person because his consent did not allow him saying he felt guilty because the detainees were senior men.
He emphasized that he neither beat nor insult any detainee. However, a video was played of Ebrima Chongan, the first TRRC witness, citing that Njie was insulting them and made them to crawl. Njie denied that and expressed his disappointment of Chongan’s testimony, saying “it seize me by surprise.”
He said all the three men were lined up on the wall and suddenly, Sabally fired shots closed to them (three of the detainees), saying they were trying to scare them.
He recalled that Lt. Sabally and Lt. Touray were talking to the detainees using words such as “we will kill you.”
He said he couldn’t remember the detainees being tortured, but said they were assembled. He also recalled one of the council members, assuming it to be Yankuba Touray, surfing a pistol in the mouth of one detained officers he said could possibly be Chongan.
He said he could not recall the council members beating the detainees, which was contrary to what he wrote in his statement dated 13 March 2019. He read out page 2, paragraph 2 where he stated that. He tried to defend himself, saying it was the mind. He however, agreed that what was in the statement was correct
He said he was born on 13 June 1973 in Kaur. He said he enlisted in the Gambia National Army in 1990 with intake number 14.
He said they started training on 7 May 1990, which was supposed to last for four months, but they were back-started two months and had to spend six months instead.
He said when they passed out; he was deployed to Bravo Company as a rifle man.
He said in 1995 he was promoted to a Lance Corporal and demoted the same year to a private soldier after he was charged with abstinence to duties. He also testified that he was incarcerated in a cell.
He said in 1998, he was again promoted to Lance Corporal and in 2000 to Corporal. And in 2015, he was promoted to warrant officer class 2.