The former AFPRC Junta vice chairman has recounted the dramatic moment Yahya Jammeh, the July 22, 1994 Coup leader, panicked and wanted to flee the country after the coup was leaked.
Edward Singhateh, who was testifying on Wednesday to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, explained how he stopped the panic-stricken Jammeh from opting out of the coup.
“I told him he cannot do that because it was what we all agreed. He did want to opt-out and I refused. I made sure he boarded one of the trucks and that soldiers sandwiched him as we leave for the State House,” he said.
“I drew the plan for the State House attack because Jammeh was not an infantry soldier. I was in charge all the way to the State House.”
On the July 22 Coup plan
The former army officer also disclosed how the coup was masterminded by five junior officers namely Lt Basirou Barrow, Lt Sana Sabally, Lt Alpha Kinteh, Lt Alagie Kanteh and himself.
He said the then Lt Yahya Jammeh, Lt Sadibou Hydara and Lt Yankuba Touray were invited to join after Lt Basirou Barrow, Lt Alagie Kanteh and Lt Alpha Kinteh withdrew from the coup plotters group.
Mr. Singhateh said the junior officers withdrew after the coup was leaked and realised that they were being monitored by military intelligence officers.
He said he knew five soldiers could not take over the country and that he would have to recruit other soldiers from his platoon – the Alpha Company.
“I developed a relationship with my troop. I made sure that I would look after the welfare of my soldiers. I will counsel them and they trusted me,” he told the Commission.
He said Lt Yankuba Touray, who was the commander of Farafenni Barracks, was recruited to join the coup after they realised their might be an attempt to foil the coup. He said Lt Touray’s role was to either stop the attack from Farafenni or to delay the troops from launching any counter-coup.
“I suggested Yankuba Touray, but Yahya Jammeh refused. I told him ‘you are not aware that Yanks know what was happening and he did not report us,” he said.
Mr Singhateh said the coup was originally plan to be executed at the airport on the day of the former president, Sir Dawda Jawara’s return from a holiday in London.
He said the plan failed after Lt Yahya Jammeh and other officers were disarmed at the Yundum airport.
Mr. Singhateh said he rushed home and burnt the written document bearing their planned coup because it was leaked and he was in a state of panick.
He said he went to Yahya Jammeh’s residence in Bakau and they agreed that they would launch the coup in the morning of July 22.
On July 22 Coup
Edward Singhateh revealed that it was Lt Sana Sabally that launched the coup after he made his way to the armoury at the Yundum barracks.
He said Jammeh informed him about Sanna Sabally’s success at securing weapons from the armouries.
“I was sleeping when Jammeh came to my home and woke me up. Jammeh told me Sanna Sabally has called him and informed him that he has already broken into one of the armouries. I dressed up and I went with Jammeh to the Yundum Barracks to meet Sabally,” he said.
Mr. Singhateh said at the Yundum Barracks they ordered the detention of all officers who were not part of the coup.
“After ensuring that the soldiers were all armed, we decided to divide the troops into three groups. One group to the State House under my command and Yahya Jammeh, one group to the Fajara Barracks under the command of Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara and another group to stay to provide reinforcement under the command of Lieutenant Bah.”
He said he designed the tactical formation that the soldiers moved with up to the State House with the expectation that there will be an ambush.
He added that the only challenge they encountered was a police ambush around Bond Road which was dealt with.
Mr Singhateh said the State House was taken over after they promised the Presidential Guards that they won’t be harmed if they surrender.
He said when the coup succeeded they set up the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) to rule the country and he was given the portfolio of the Defence ministry.
“I suggested Yahya Jammeh to lead the whole process of the revolution because the way Sanna Sabally had acted made me worry because he threatened to kill senior security officers. Sabally’s erratic behavior was a concern for me.
“Sanna Sabally I could see was not happy. Sadibou Hydara asked why and I told him that because Jammeh was the most senior.
“Jammeh said I am his vice, but I told him. Sanna Sabally became the vice-chairman of the Council because he was the second most senior.
“I started the coup with Sanna Sabally. He was a very nice man.”
Edward Singhateh continues with his testimony today.