By Yankuba Jallow
Tijan Touray, an ex-guard to former President Dawda Jawara, yesterday January 23rd, gave testimony before Commissioners of the TRRC, on his recollection of the 1994 coup.
Touray said he was a close body guard to former president Jawara and a secret agent attached to the State House by the National Security Services (NSS).
Testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), Touray said he joined the Gendarme in 1986 and was conferred the rank of Corporal; that he trained with Retired General Lang Tombong Tamba and their batch had forty recruits. Touray said at this time, the Commander of the Gambia Gendarmerie was General Pateh Seck of Senegal and the instructors were Senegalese.He added that one Ebrima Chongan, a Gambian, was made Commander after undergoing his Gendarmerie training overseas.
Touray told Commissioners that former president Jammeh was moved from the State House owing to his bad behavior; that he does not respect his superiors. He said the manner in which he acts or speaks was not good at all and swears often.
“He was like a bandit. He does not take orders from his seniors and he hated them. He was like a radical,” the witness said.
About The Coup:
Touray said weeks before the coup, he travelled with former president Jawara to the AU Summit in Tunisia; adding that they came back on the 21st of July 1994.
Like many other witnesses, Touray disclosed to Commissioners that three days before their departure for the AU Summit, there was rumour of coup but investigations revealed that it was foiled, that on their return from the Summit, Lang Tombong Tamba, who was the senior guard commander at the State House at the time, instructed him to join a minibus. The witness said it was not normal for a person who escorts the president abroad, to be put in a minibus and be separated far from the President. He noted that at the Banjul International Airport, he saw Yaya Jammeh, who was at this time, a military police officer.
On the day of the coup, Touray said he left for work as usual to the State House. He pointed out that at the entrance, he saw former president Jawara, Saihou Sabally and the then American Ambassador, leaving the State House with a small entourage; noting that he followed them to the Seaport in Banjul where he saw the president and others enter a naval ship. He pointed out that Lamin Kaba Bajo ordered him to return to the State House to monitor what was happening there.
Touray explained that after reaching State House, Yahya Jammeh and his soldiers (who were referred to as rebels), were standing outside the State House discussing in English, with Lang Tombong Tamba who was the Guards Commander; pointing out that they later changed their discussion to Jola language. He noted that the number of rebel soldiers who came, was large.
“Lang Tombong said in order to avoid bloodshed, the soldiers should be allowed in, to take over the State House,” he asserted.
Touray said at this point, he left the State House for the seaport but saw the American Naval Ship that former president Jawara boarded, leaving the port; that the coup makers were not only the soldiers because “you cannot identify who the soldiers are, because they were all in camouflage.”
He said the people he was able to identify as being part of the coup, include Alagie Martin, Edward Singhateh, Sanna Sabally and others.
After Staging A Successful Coup:
The witness said this was not a coup but a mutiny. He said he is still with the conviction that if the coup was resisted by soldiers at State House, they would have overcome Jammeh and his men. He said there was day when Lang Tombong Tamba, Lieutenant Kebba Sonko, and Kemeta Sambou, came to his residence near State House; that during their discussion, they said they wanted to conspire to assassinate Jammeh and his Council members but were told by Lang Tombong Tamba that he was part of the coup makers.
“Lang Tombong told us that Yahya Jammeh gave him the responsibility of Fajara Barracks,” the witness stated.
He said he left the Gambia for Senegal on the following day, by boat and met former president Jawara in Dakar. He noted that he was charged with Treason in absentia whereas Kebba Sonko was arrested and detained by the junta, as a result of a report made to the junta by Lang Tombong Tamba.
Sittings Continues today at 10 am.