By Kebba Secka
Major Abdou Karim Jah, the first prosecution witness in the ongoing criminal trial involving General Umpa Mendy and Ansumana Tamba, on Wednesday May 9th, told the general court-martial that in 2006, he was accused of plotting a coup against the former Government and dismissed from the Gambia Armed Forces and sentenced to a jail term of nine years and four months.
He told the court that the two generals were posted to the State Guard Batallion at the time he was in active service in the Gambia Arm Forces. Major Jah was giving testimony in the ongoing trial of the two generals.
When the case was called, Counsel Bafou Jeng announced his appearance for the State whilst Counsel Uzoma Achigbue, appeared for the accused persons.
PW1 during crossed examination by defense Counsel Achigbue, told the court that on 20th March 2017, he was reabsorbed into the army and on 31st March 2018, he was re-appointed Director of Records at Defense Headquarters in Banjul. Asked by defense counsel whether he was responsible of posting officers to various installations, PW1 answered in the negative; that he was responsible of keeping records of postings. Defense counsel further asked him whether he kept records of both local and international serving members of the Gambia Armed Forces and he responded: ‘‘I keep record of locally serving members of the Gambia Armed Forces and update the nominal roll.’’ PW1 further explained that nominal roll is a list containing the names and ranks of all officers of the Gambia Armed Forces and their appointments; that he was responsible of keeping records of officers outside the Gambia. At this point, the defense counsel told him that as director of records, he could not hold the accused persons accountable. PW1 declined and responded: “Of course yes.”
State counsel, Bafou Jeng applied to tender the posting order of the accused persons. This application was not objected to by the defense counsel. Subsequently, the posting orders dated 16th February 2017, was marked as exhibit PE2A. The one dated 19th February 2017, was admitted and marked as exhibit PE2B. The nominal roll that the witness explained contain the names of officers and their ranks, was also tendered, admitted and marked as exhibit PE2C and dated 9th March, 2017.
PW1 Major Jah told the court that he was not in active service at the time of the political impasse. When asked by defence counsel whether he identified the accused persons, PW1 answered in the affirmative adding that at the time of his dismissal from the army , they were senior members of the Gambia Armed Forces. Defense counsel asked the witness to explain what suspicion of a coup, has to do with state guard? At this point, prosecution objected and said the question was irrelevant and relied on Section 40 of the evidence act to back her argument.
The court overruled the objection made by the prosecution regarding the irrelevance of the question of the defense counsel and ordered the witness to answer the question. PW1 answered that it means a threat to the state guard. “You told the court that you were not in active service at the time of the impasse?’’ asked defense counsel. PW1 replied: Yes.’’ Defense counsel further put it to the witness that based on his knowledge, the information in the exhibit PE2C was filled. Witnessed answered in the affirmative. Defense counsel told the witness that those in charge at the records office were not performing their duties that was why they didn’t fill the information based on their knowledge but relied on one who was not in active service. Witness disagreed with defense counsel Achigbue. PW1 continued and explained that it was the staff officers at the defense headquarters that signed the exhibit on behalf of Chief of Defense Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces (CDS). ‘’They were appointed as directors for administration,’’ said PW1.
‘‘It was in that regard you assumed the records given to you are correct?’’ asked defense counsel.
‘‘They were absolutely correct because they were signed on behalf of CDS,’’ the witness replied.
Defense counsel further asked PW1 whether as director for records he has any means of verifying documents that come to him rather than saying it was signed on behalf of the CDS.
‘’I need not to verify it because it was signed,’’ said PW1.
According to PW1, records of officers on a mission are kept by the orderly’s clerk; that personal files of officers are under his command whether directly or in directly; that when it comes to officers outside the Gambia, it is under the chief clerk and the chief clerk is answerable to them.
The case was adjourned to Thursday 10th May, 2018 for continuation.