By Yankuba Jallow
Former Vice-Chairman of AFPRC has explained why they toppled the PPP’s government on the 22nd July 1994 in a bloodless coup.
“We were motivated by the very deteriorating conditions in the army,” he said.
He said the soldiers who participated in the coup were loyal soldiers to the State.
“The soldiers were loyal and I wouldn’t blame one of them. We used the condition (they were facing) to subvert them to join us,” he said.
Edward Singhatey said as soldiers, they felt that the Gambians deserve better than what they had at that time. He said the soldiers’ welfare wasn’t taken care of by the Sir Dawda K. Jawara lead Government. He said there was tribalism in the military. He said the conditions in the army were deteriorating and it was downsizing because there was a time when the Nigerian soldiers weren’t taking recruits. He said the feeding was bad.
“We were given rotten food as soldiers,” he said.
He said as soldiers, they were part of the society and they knew the conditions that the people are faced with.
“I was not into politics much but we knew as a country, we could do better. We deserve schools, hospitals and communication. There were only two hospitals – Banjul and Basang and if you go to the hospitals, there were no medicines. Not everyone could afford the Ahmaddiyaa hospital because it was a private hospital. There were no schools,” he said.
“With the deficit in the economy, we felt that Gambians deserve better. We need better roads, schools and hospitals.”
“With all these problems, we decided to step in to solve the problem even if we are going to lose our lives because the Gambian people deserve it. We step it and we did it.”
Singhatey added: “We knew it was unconstitutional and we admit but it worth it if we can bring the schools, hospitals and roads the Gambians desire.”
He said Yahya Jammeh was a Jola and he was not fully accepted in the military hierarchy dominated by the Wollofs and Mandinkas.
He said at the army headquarters, there were no toilet facilities and soldiers used to go to the beach to defecate. He said there was a day when he visited the army headquarters when he met the place completely empty because the soldiers were suffering from running stomach and they all went to the beach to defecate.
“This was because the army headquarters lacked toilet facilities,” he said.
He said whenever he puts in his report that the food that the soldiers under were served was not fit for consumption, his command will reject it and nothing would be done about it.
The army lacked facilities and equipment.
“The equipment weren’t taken care of. The soldiers’ beds had bed bugs,” he said.
He said he was very close to Sanna B. Sabally. He said they used to discuss how to change the situation of the army until it advanced to the discussion about how to improve the general welfare of the country.
“There was a general discontentment of the Nigerian soldiers,” he said.
He said it was very difficult to get uniforms and shoes for the soldiers.
He said their first meeting was held in Kundang where they all agreed that ‘the system has to go’. He said that the exercise in Kudang was not successful because the logistics that they were provided with were a mess and the command and control was not properly coordinated.
“What we learnt in Kudang was that the Gambia army was not battle-ready and we needed more exercises,” he said.
He said there was a general feeling that the Nigerians shouldn’t lead the Gambia National Army (GNA).
“The presence of the Nigerians contributed to the coup but not the sole reason,” he said.
He said the Nigerian soldiers were giving harsh orders and sometimes embarrassed Gambian officers in the presence of their juniors.
“To us, officers should be treated in a particular way,” he said.
He said the soldiers who participated in the discussion which brought about the coup were Lt. Alpha Kinteh, Lt. Alagie Kanteh, himself and Sanna B. Sabally as well as many junior officers.
“We were all second lieutenants,” he said.
He said they agreed to add up someone who is senior to join them in the coup and they all agreed to bring Lt. Basiru Barrow.
“The original five members of the coup were Lt. Alpha Kinteh, Sanna Sabally, Basirou Barrow, Alagi Kanteh and myself,” he said.
He said they were spotted by military intelligence and both Alagi Kanteh and Alpha Kinteh opted out. He added that he suggested to Yahya Jammeh and Sadibou Hydara. He added that Basirou Barrow refused for Yahya Jammeh to come on board.
“I went ahead and talk to Yahya Jammeh and he accepted. He came on board. I identified Jammeh because he has served in the presidential guard and his inciteful knowledge about the State House would help,” Singhatey said.
“After Jammeh has come on board, Basiru Barrow decided to withdraw because it has leaked. We were watched by the military intelligence,” he said.
He said he knew five soldiers could not take over and he used his platoon.
“I developed a relationship with my troop. I make sure that I would look after the welfare of my soldiers. I will counsel them and they trusted me,” he said.
He said he was speaking to them slowly until the Alpha Company all agreed to come on board.
He said he talked to Yankuba Touray to join them and he agreed to join. He said Touray’s role was to either stop the attack from Farafenni or to delay the troop from any counter-attack.
“We knew for a fact that we will have a counter-attack from Farafenni and Yankuba Touray was posted at the Farafenni Barracks. I asked him to do that for us and he agreed,” he said.
He said the information was leaked and they asked Sadibou Hydara to be on standby so that he could use the soldiers under his command to free them whenever they are arrested.
“I suggested to them that we should take over the State House but I was overruled. They suggested that we should arrest the head of state at the airport when he arrives on the 21st July 1994,” he said.
“I told them there will be civilians and we cannot exchange fires there but my suggestion was overruled. I drew the plans for both the airport and the State House,” he said.
He said their plan failed because Yahya Jammeh was disarmed.
“We did not have the tools to implement our plan and that was why we failed,” he said.
He said he rushed home and burnt the written document bearing their planned coup because it has leaked and he was in a state of panick. He said he went to Yahya Jammeh’s residence in Bakau and they agreed that they would launch the coup in the morning of 22nd July.
“The coup was launched by Lieutenant Sanna Sabally,” he said.
He said Sanna Sabally called Jammeh and informed him that he has already broken one of the old armouries at the Yundum Barracks.
“I was sleeping and Jammeh came to my home and woke me up. Jammeh told me Sanna Sabally has called him and informed him that he has already broken into one of the armouries. I dressed up and I went with Jammeh to the Yundum Barracks to meet Sabally,” he said.
He said at the Yundum Barracks, they have taken a decision and gave an order that all officers who were not part of the coup to be temporary detain pending the outcome of the coup. He said several officers were arrested and detained including the Adjutant Sheriff Gomez and the guard commander.
“After ensuring that the soldiers were all armed, we decided to divide the troop into three groups. One group to the State House under my command and Yahya Jammeh, one group to the Fajara Barracks under the command of Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara and one group to stay to provide reinforcement under the command of Lieutenant Bah,” he said.
He said Sanna Sabally was also tasked to cut off the international gateway and to secure Gamtel.
He said Yahya Jammeh tried to opt-out.
“I told him he cannot do that because it was what we all agreed. He did want to opt-out and I refused. I make sure he board on one of the trucks and I made sure that soldiers sandwich him and we left for the State House,” he said.
“I drew the plan for the State House attack because Jammeh was not an infantry soldier. I was in charge all the way to the State House,” he said.
He said he designed the tactical formation that the soldiers moved with up to the State House with the expectation that there will be an ambush. He said the only encounter they faced was a police ambush around Bond-Road.
He said when they took over the State House, he asked all Presidential Guards to put their weapons down and he promised not to harm them. He said that was how the State House was taken over and a military council was established to run the affairs of the State. He added that he was given the portfolio of the Minister of Defence and later the Vice-Chairperson of the Council (AFPRC).
He will appear on Thursday to continue with his testimony with other matters including the 11th November 1994 incident.
Their government came through the gun and ended the PPP self-perpetuated rule with the allegations that it was a corrupt government. Their Government ruled the Gambia by decrees and suspended the 1970 Republican Constitution.
After establishing themselves, as a government, Singhatey’s government was also involved in several human rights violations such as unlawful arrest and detention, torture, the murder of both civilians and members of the Gambia National Army, among other crimes.
Singhatey together with all his colleague junta members including former President Jammeh has been alleged by several witnesses to have participated in human rights violations such as the arrest and torture of civilians at the Fajara Barracks including former cabinet ministers of the defunct PPP government. They are alleged to have executed several soldiers on the 11th November 1994 at the Fajara Barracks, Yundum Barracks and the Lance Corporal Bojang’s Range in Brikama. The executed soldiers include Lieutenants Gibril Saye, Basirou Barrow and Abdoulie ‘Dot’ Faal, Sergeants Fafa Nyang and Basirou Camara, Cadet Amadou Sillah, Buba Jammeh among others. Testimonies have it that over 20 soldiers were executed by the military government under the chairmanship of retired Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh.
Singhatey, Yankuba Touray and Peter Singhatey are alleged to have participated and spearheaded the killing of Ousman Koro Ceesay, a former Secretary of State for Finance sometime in June 1994.
Witnesses’ testimony suggested that Koro Ceesay was killed at the residence of Yankuba Touray in Kerr Sering but after he was assassinated, the scenario was cover-up as if he had died as a resulted of an accident around Jambur.
Singhatey has a lot to answer today as he face-off with the TRRC which is a Commission established by an Act of the National Assembly to dig into past human rights violations by their government.
The Formation of the Government
“I suggested Yahya Jammeh to lead the whole process of the revolution because the way Sanna Sabally had acted made me worry because he threatened to kill senior security officers. Sabally’s erratic behavior was a concern for me,” he said.
“Sanna Sabally I could see was not happy. Sadibou Hydara asked why and I told him that because Jammeh was the most senior.”
“Jammeh said I am his vice, but I told him. Sanna Sabally became the vice-chairman of the Council because he was the second most senior.”
“I started the coup with Sanna Sabally. He was a very nice man,” he said.
“I suggested Yankuba Touray, but Yahya Jammeh refused. I told him ‘you are not aware that Yanks know what was happening and he did not report us,” he said.
He said they decided to share positions among themselves and he was made the Minister of Defense.
Foroyaa will provide you with the details of the testimony of Singhatey.