Sait Darboe, a former soldier of The Gambia National Army, has given a detail account of the 11 November 1994 attempted coup and the fate of the soldiers that were accused of plotting it.
Darboe, who appeared as a witness to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission yesterday, said that the group of soldiers led by Lt Basirou Barrow were planning a coup against the AFPRC junta on the 11 November 1994. Their plot to attack and seized the State House was leaked to the junta by a mole, Buba Jammeh aka Kanilai, who had infiltrated the group.
The junta was brutal in putting down the coup and the subsequent massacre of the alleged plotters was one of the darkest chapters of the Jammeh era.
The former soldier gave an eyewitness account of the brutality that ensued on that eventful day and the summary execution of the coup plotters without trial or due process. He told the commission that he heard Lt Sabally, the vice chairman of the junta, said to his soldiers “if anyone is involved let them be killed.”
Darboe said all the soldiers with the exception of Lt Basirou Barrow, Lt Dot Faal and Sergeant Fafa Nyang were taken to the Brikama firing range were they were executed in the presence of the AFPRC Junta leaders. The remains of the soldiers were taken to Yundum Barracks and buried in a mass grave.
He alleged that Lt Edward Singhateh, Lt Sana Sabally, Lt Sadibou Hydara, Lt Yankuba Touray, as well as Lt Colonel Baboucarr Jatta, army commander, 2nd Lt Peter Singhateh and Lt Col Momodou Badgie, the current National Security Adviser to President Barrow, were present during the extra-judicial killings.
Darboe said Lt Basirou Barrow, Lt Dot Faal and Sergeant Fafa Nyang were killed at Yundum Barracks.
“Lt Barrow was shot dead while Lt Dot Faal was bayonetted. Their corpse were left on an open military truck. I saw the remains of Lt Barrow and Lt Dot Faal with swollen heads and bleeding from the mouths and noses.
“They were killed with bayonets and not gun shots. It was dirty killing man. The wounds were that of bayonets. I am a soldier I can tell the difference. They had a terrible death.”
Darboe said while he was viewing the corpses he heard shouting behind him. He said he saw soldiers beating Sergeant Fafa Nyang, another alleged plotter, with the butts of their guns. He named Sergeant Alaji Kanyi, Medic Lance corporal Colley and warrant officer Buba Sanyang as the soldiers who beat Sergeant Nyang to death. He said Sergeant Nyang, who was still alive despite the torture, was thrown into a shallow grave where he was stone by the named soldiers until Lance Corporal Colley “shot him dead with an AK 47.”
He gave a list of the executed soldiers on 11 November 1994 as Lt Basirou Barrow, Lt Buba Jammeh, Lt Dot Faal, Lt Gibril Saye, Lt Bakary Manneh, Corporal Camara, Buba Jammeh, Cadet Amadou Sillah, Lt Abdoulie Bah, Sergeant Fafa Nyang, Alieu Bah and Lamrana Jallow.
Darboe said he played a leading role in the 1994 coup that brought the AFPRC Junta into power. He said he was a member of the Eco-Company commanded by Captain Lai Conteh and that Lt Edward Singhateh was his platoon commander.
He recalled seeing Lt Yahya Jammeh, Lt Sadibou Hydara and Lt Edward Singhateh having meetings in an area behind the barracks referred to as Bahamas. He said Lt Singhateh occasionally briefed him and other junior officers about their plan to topple the Jawara government and improved the poor conditions of the soldiers.
Darboe revealed that the July 22nd coup was actually planned for July 21st 1994, when Jawara was returning from his holidays in the United Kingdom and was meant to be arrested at the airport during the guard of honour.
Lt Edward Singhateh was tasked with arresting Jawara at gun point and Lt Yahya Jammeh was meant to alert the other plotters after Jawara’s arrest by his firing his pistol in the air.
However the authorities had a tipoff of the planned coup and all the soldiers including the coup plotters were disarmed at the airport by a contingent of Nigerian soldiers. The customary inspection of guard of honour was abandoned and Jawara was escorted to the State House without an incident.
He said they regrouped that night at Yundum Barracks and some of the alleged plotters including Lt Edward Singhateh were disheartened about what they perceived as a failed coup.
“Each of them have their passport and were ready to flee the country.”
Darboe said at the Yundum meeting that night they agreed to pursue the coup after winning the support of the lower ranking soldiers who pledged to fight to the last man to topple the Jawara regime.
He said that most of the senior officers, including Lt O. B Mbye the duty officer and Captain Sheriff Gomez, the Adjutant, were arrested and that vehicles were commandeered to drive the group of soldiers to Fajara Barracks
He said Lt Edward Singhateh and four soldiers captured the airport and arrested the gendarmerie officers who were guarding it.
Darboe said that he left with Lt. Sana Sabally and Lt Sadibou Hydara for Fajara Barracks which they over ran with 15 soldiers from the gendermarie adding that they infiltrated the barracks from the rear end of it. .
“They were all running helter-skelter with their children and wives. We arrested some gendarmerie and took them to Yundum Barracks where they were detained.
“We were determined and ready to kill as our choice was clear either we take the state house or the graveyard.”
He said the armoury was overran and the ammunitions were taken away to reinforce the frontline soldiers who were heading to Banjul.
He revealed that Lt. Basirou Barrow was designated to be the chairman of the junta but he declined the position because of his fear of public speaking. He said when Lt Barrow declined the post, Lt Sabally took out his gun and pointed at Jammeh declaring that he is the chairman and Jammeh replied that Lt Sabally was his deputy. Lt Basirou Barrow returned to command Yundum Barracks.
Darboe said he was disappointed after the success of the coup as Lt Edward Singhateh and the junta didn’t fulfil their promise of improving the lives of the lower ranking officers. Instead he said the junta created a regime of distrust and snooping in their ranks.