A former police superintendent, Abubacar Jeng, has told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), that the July 22 coup was “a fluke.”

Jeng, the fifth witness to testify at the TRRC, said the coup succeeded due to the lack of resistance by some security officers. He blamed the security personnel at the Dentong Bridge for failing to resist the coup.

Former police superintendent Abubacar Jeng

“The July 1994 was a fluke. It was poorly organised by angry people. The leadership was not structured. You can’t make a coup without a statement. If there was a proper engagement and resistance there would never have been a July 22nd coup.

“The leadership didn’t do what was expected of them. There was a failure and I didn’t think there was credible resistance at the Denton Bridge. If I was on the bridge I wouldn’t have surrendered that easily. I would have made a robust defence. I would have negotiated and persuaded them.
Fighting would have been the last resort.”

Jeng gave a situational report of the challenges the police faced in the 90s and said the force had problems with resources and logistics to effectively carried out their duties. He said the force had difficulties in recruiting highly qualified individuals.

“The perception of the police institution was that it was only for school dropouts and people with limited career opportunities.”

He said that changed when the Tactical Support Group of the Gendermarie was merged with the Gambian Police Force adding that it became a professional police institution with highly skilled personnel in charge.

July 22nd 1994 coup

Jeng disclosed that there were rumours of a pending coup the days leading up to 22nd July 1994. He was working then at the police headquarters and said the government took measures at the airport to disarm the guard of honour welcoming the then president Jawara.

He said on the day of the coup he went to work as usual and went through the normal morning parade and briefing .

Shortly later they were summoned again by the then Assistant Inspector General of Police, Ebrima Chongan and informed that there was a mutiny by soldiers of the Gambian army and were marching towards Banjul, the seat of government. He said measure were taken and officers of the TSG were deployed at Denton Bridge.

“Chongan stressed the need for the fortifications of the police headquarters. This task was delegated to the officer commanding Banjul at the time, Gibril Joof. We were tasked to secure arms from the Banjul Barracks and made key deployments in and around the Police Headquarters.”

He said that news came through of the progress of the mutineers. “We were told that they were progressively moving towards Banjul. Fajara Barracks was taken without any resistance, the standoff at Denton Bridge, the crossing of the bridge, the movement to State House and the toppling of the government”.

He said the leaders of the coup (2nd Lt Sana Sabally, 2nd Lt Sadibou Hydara, Captain Momodou Sonko) came to the police headquarters.

“I was privy to it as I was at the office of the IG discussing what had taken place. Captain Sonko was speaking to AIG Chongan telling him that the coup was a success and they were now in control of the country and that the TSG should surrender.

“2nd Lt Sabally and 2nd Lt Hydara entered the office. And the first statement that Sabally issued was “there’s nothing to discuss and there should be no discussion in this office.”

He said Sabally ordered all the senior police officers to assemble outside the police headquarters.

“We obeyed because there was no ability for resistance anymore. We all assembled as ordered outside the offices of Standards Chartered Bank. We were all standing there rejected, dejected and hopeless. A complete sense of failure. It was shameful. It was humiliation. We were denied acces to our offices and paraded outside a banking institution.

“There was no resistance. It would have been suicidal. The only resistance I knew of was that of AIG Chongan around Radio Syd under the cover of ambush.”

Jeng said he was appointed as secretary to the Junta after a meeting with Edward Singhateh who had enquired about his educational background and birth place. The scope of his work, he said, was to cover the meetings of the juntas with members of the diplomatic missions.

He disclosed that he was falsely accused of plotting a coup and arrested by the junta. He said he was accused of being part of a “Wollof boys coup”.

He said he was taken to the Security Wing of Mile Two Prison where he encountered Mamat Cham, Sam Sarr, Chongan in the prisons and it was there it dawned on him about the allegation of the Wollof boys staging a coup.

He described the appalling prison conditions which only improved after the visit of Bishop Michael Claery.

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