By: Yankuba Jallow
Essa M. Faal, the lead Counsel for the TRRC has on Monday 8th April 2019 labelled Lamin Senghore, a witness who appeared before the Commission on several occasions as a liar after he participating in the torture and execution of soldiers and others while he served in Army and NIA.
This came about when the witness testified that he has never seen or participated in any torture during his services as security personnel in the GAF, NIA and DLEAG (Drug Squad).
Senghore said he completed his military training in 1991 and was deployed at the Yundum Barracks under the Eco-Company. He added that on the 22nd July 1994, he was part of a platoon that was reserved at the Yundum Barracks as reinforcement for the coup makers (Yahya Jammeh and his men) at the airport. He told the Commission that the coup on 22nd July was supposed to stage a day before (21st July), but it failed.
“The platoon was headed by Lieutenant Sanna Sabally and we were going to reinforce them at the airport for the coup,” Senghore said.
He adduced that when the coup failed, Lieutenant Edward Singhatey gave him 25 dalasis to use for home fares and asked him to report to the Barracks at night. He said when he came back; he realized that one Almamo Manneh had duplicated the keys to the old armoury.
“We were all armed at that night and we were just waiting for the morning,” the witness said.
He testified that in the morning of the 22nd July 1994 Adjutant Sherriff Gomez was gun pointed by Lieutenant Edward Singhatey to give them the key.
“When we opened the armoury, we knew that there was no force in The Gambia that can stop us,” the witness said.
He said when they reached the Denton Bridge; they found Gendarmerie officers who asked them to stop.
“I carried my machine gun and passed the bridge. I told the Gendarmerie if they want, let them fire me but if they missed, I will fire back at them. They surrendered,” the witness said.
The Lead Counsel, Faal told him that his evidence is not true adding that several witnesses who had earlier testified before the Commission have given a completely different testimony. Faal told the witness that the crossing of the Bridge was possible because of the negotiation that had taken place between the leaders of the coup and the Gendarmerie officers sent to stop the coup makers from crossing the Bridge.
The witness remained muted over the insinuation by Counsel Faal.
He continued his testimony that when they reached the Christian Cemetery situated at the entrance of the city, they met Sergeant Alagie Martins (now Brigadier-General) who did not resist joining them.
“It was easy for Alagie Martins to be convinced by Chairman Jammeh to join us,” the witness said.
He said at the Arch 22nd, they were divided into two groups; one went through the Independence Drive whereas the other used the Marina Parade. He said he was in the group that used the Independence Drive.
He explained that after the successful coup, he was deployed to the State House under the State Guard. He said the 11thNovember 1994 incident met him at the State Guard.
About the November 11 Incident
He said there was a rumour that officers from the Yundum and Fajara Barracks were planning to counter the junta. He said this was confirmed to him by his friend one Cadet Amadou Sillah. He told the Commission that Sillah said: “You people are still there. We will be coming for you at the State House.”
He said on the 10th November 1994, all the AFPRC (Council) members came with their orderlies to the State House. He said the Council members were Lieutenants Sanna B. Sabally, Yankuba Touray, Sadibou Hydara and Edward Singhatey. He said they (the Council) held a conversation with Chairman Jammeh upstairs and when they came down, they briefed them about a mission.
“Edward Singhatey told us that they needed volunteers to crush the coup. They don’t want to wait to be attacked by the coup plotters,” the witness adduced.
He said 47 people volunteered to join them in their mission to foil the coup. He said they used transportation to go to the Yundum Barracks through Banjulinding. He said on their way, they met with two soldiers who all told them that they were leaving because they don’t want to be part of the coup. He said the Council members thereafter released them. He testified that he was sent to survey the Barracks and come up with a situational report therein. He said when he came from the survey; he was the one who recommended for the Council members and the soldiers to use the back gate of the Yundum Barracks.
He said when they entered the Barracks through the back gate, the guards were disarmed and detained because they didn’t trust them. He added that after their arrest, the light in the Barracks was put off and they (the Council members) mounted their guard posts.
He said Lieutenant Basirou Barrow came in his blue Pajero saying: “gentlemen are you ready for my mission”.
“Sanna Sabally replied to Basirou Barrow yes we are ready for your orders,” the witness said.
He said this was the time Lieutenant Barrow, as well as his men, were disarmed and detained in the cells in the Barracks adding that one LF Jammeh and one Lamin Jarju escaped. He told the Commission that he was the one who arrested one Abdoulie J. Darboe, a batch mate of his.
“No one was beaten in my presence,” the witness said, adding that he has not released any gunshot at the Yundum Barracks. He said Lieutenant Abdoulie ‘Dot’ Faal was in the same vehicle with Abdoulie J. Darboe.
A video of Abdoulie J. Darboe’s testimony before the TRRC was played for the witness to react to. In his reaction, Senghore said he respects Darboe’s testimony but he disputed the fact that he was beaten.
“Why will Abdoulie Darboe identify you as one of those who tortured him?” Counsel Faal asked.
“I have never tortured him,” the witness responded.
A video of Mafujie Sonko was played where he mentioned that the people arrested were tortured by those who arrested them.
“Is he lying that he was tortured?” Counsel Faal asked.
“He is correct. I was not there at the time he was tortured,” the witness replied, adding that he has never known Sonko before until when he saw him giving testimony before the TRRC.
The witness emphasized that no one was beaten at the Yundum Barracks (in his presence), adding that all the arrested personnel were taken to a cell and were detained there.
Counsel Faal put it to the witness that one Ensa Mendy has told the Commission that the arrested soldiers and officers were beaten mercilessly. The witness denied that fact added that he has never witnessed any torture at the Yundum Barracks.
He said after the arrest of Lieutenant Barrow and the other soldiers, he proceeded to the Fajara Barracks where they entered through the back gate. He added that as soon as they entered, they began firing randomly.
“I was having about 500 rounds in my machine gun,” the witness said.
He explained that after the firing ceased, he collapsed because he had inhaled a lot of gas from the machine gun adding that he was carried away after collapsing. He said he collapsed due to exhaustion and inhaling gas.
“The soldiers that were captured were never shot but were taken to Mile II. There was no person wounded at the Fajara Barracks,” the witness said.
He said after the captured soldiers were taken to Mile II, Lieutenant Sanna Sabally asked the State Guard soldiers to return to the State House.
“How do you know no one was shot when you have just told the Commission that you have collapsed?” the Lead Counsel asked.
“I collapsed but I was still conscious. I just lost strength,” the witness adduced.
About the Allegation of his Torture of Soldiers at Mile II
He admitted being part of a group of soldiers headed by Sergeant Alagie Martins. He said Martins led the team of torturers but he has never tortured any person at Mile II.
“They were torturing by kicking, slapping and striking,” the witness attested.
He said it was at this time he pleaded to Martins to allow him to take charge of RSM Baboucar Sanyang (now a Lieutenant-Colonel in the GAF), RSM Fatty and one Musa Colley.
“I did not torture them,” the witness said.
A video of RSM Sanyang’s testimony before the TRRC was played where he was giving an account of his torture at Mile II by Martins and his men including the witness.
“His (Sanyang’s) testimony is incorrect,” the witness said, adding that as far as he could remember, he had only witnessed the torture of the first-batch at Mile II by Martins and his men.
“Assassin means killer. You claim that you have never participated in any torture or killing, yet they call you assassin; it means you don’t deserve the name assassin,” the Lead Counsel told the witness.
“Yes. I have never participated in the killing or torture of any soldier,” the witness said.
He said some years after the November 11 incident, he was part of a team of soldiers trained on counter-terrorism. He said the training lasted for about 4 months.
“Is that junglar’s training,” asked the Lead Counsel.
“Yes, it was,” the witness responded, adding that they were not taught to be killers but to neutralize a defensive mechanism.
Following a series of questions and answers between the Lead Counsel and the witness, he admitted that they were trained to be killers.
“I have never participated in the junglars’ operations,” the witness said.
He said in the year 2007, he joined the National Intelligence Agency as a security guard and was later promoted to be an operative under the Operations Unit at the NIA under one Edrisa Jobe.
“I have never participated in the torture of any person at the NIA,” the witness said, adding that he left the NIA and joined the Drug Law Enforcement Agency- Gambia (DLEAG).
He said at the Drug Squad, he has never participated in the torture of any person. He told the Commission that he has never done any training in relation to interrogation.
“How would you rate your success?” Counsel Faal inquired.
“The rate of my success was very high,” the witness replied.
It was here that the Lead Counsel emphasized to the witness that lying before the Commission has consequences and if it is found out that he was lying, then he will face the consequences for lying.
“Would you maintain your testimony?” the Lead Counsel asked.
“Yes. I maintain my testimony as correct,” the witness replied.