Sana Sabally & Sadibou Hydara
By Yankuba Jallow
A former Adjutant of the Gambia National Army who was jailed in the aftermath of the July 22nd Coup Sheriff Gomez, has explained that Sadibou Hydara and Sanna Sabally were tortured at Mile II Prisons.
Gomez said Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara were tortured with electric shock.
“Electric socks were involved and I heard shouts and cries. This happened immediately they were brought in. Perhaps, this may have triggered the demise of Sadibou Hydara,” he told Commissioners of the TRRC.
Gomez said he has spent over two years behind bars at the mosquito-infested prison at Mile II; that General Alhagie Martin and Yankuba Touray, used to come to the prison to torture military detainees.
Prior to him becoming a security man, Gomez said he was a constructor who had worked for Taf Construction Company; that he has also worked for the Gambia Civil Aviation before joining the Gambia National Army in January 1987, as intake number 7. He added that he was an infantry soldier. He said in 1988, he attended an officer training course at the Pakistan Military Academy for 2 years; that he came back in the year 1990 with a BA in History and with Military Training Certificates. Gomez said he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and was deployed to Liberia for peacekeeping. He averred that when he came back from Liberia, he was a Training Officer at the 1st Infantry Battalion at Yundum Barracks; that when the Nigerian soldiers came, he was made Administrative Officer attached to the CEO of the Contingent and prior to his appointment as the administrative officer, he went to the USA for training. He noted that when he came back in 1992, he was made Adjutant and was in this position from 1992 to 1994, when the coup happened. On the roles of Adjutant officer, Gomez said this was twofold; that first it was recording daily administrative routines of the barracks which involves discipline because it relates to junior soldiers from Lieutenant downwards; and two, responsibility for all celebrations within the barracks.
Narrating further, Gomez said on 22nd July 1994, he reached Yundum Barracks before half-past seven in the morning. He continued:
“When I reached the Barracks, I passed the centry, the person on duty at the Barracks gate, and I saw some hesitancy. I noticed that the way he complimented me was hesitant and a bit sloppy.
When I entered, I faced the guard room which was a reception in civil parlance. The guard room houses all those soldiers on duty on 24 hours and a point of call for any person visiting the Barracks.
Looking afar, I saw Yahya Jammeh and so many other soldiers in different mix dresses. I thought they were soldiers who were prepared to go for the exercise between Gambian and American soldiers. By the time I reached the guard room, I would have turned right to go to my office and it was at that juncture that 2nd Lieutenant Edward Singhateh and his group, rushed and arrested me.” Gomez said he was placed in the cell at the guardroom; that his briefcase was taken from him and was forcefully grabbed and taken to a cell in the Guard Room and locked there.
“Edward did not grab me but the soldiers who did, were under his command. They were with weapons and pointed them at me and I stopped. The gate was fifty meters from the Guard Room. I do not know why I was arrested,” he stated. He said he met Lieutenant OB Mbye who was duty officer for that night in the cell, and it was him who explained all that happened. He said the cells were meant to keep people who misbehave in the barracks or people who are charged with offences.
“I tried to look for soldiers to stop these men but I realized that everybody was into it. I thought it was not prudent to continue with that adventure and resigned to my faith,” he said; that he has never expected these junior soldiers to succeed with the coup. “I have no doubt that this would fail,” he said.
“Immediately I was in the Guard Room, Edward rushed in and shouted my name. He asked for the armoury keys. It surprised me and I thought that he was setting me up, because of our encounter,” he said. “I know Edward is always bitter, but was sober at that time,” he said.
Gomez testified that former Junta Vice Chairman Edward Singhateh, fired a gun over his head and threatened to shoot him if he does not hand over the keys to the Armoury at the Yundum barracks; that he complied and handed the keys to Singhateh. He added that Singhateh and his men then opened the armoury and armed the mutineers. He said Singhateh on two occasions, threatened to blow up his head with a gun; that they were provided with food from the barracks kitchen. “Jammeh made an attempt to open the cells and take me out but most of them did not agree with him. Jammeh wanted to have me on their side but all the others refused,” he said. He said he was at the Guard Room cell for two nights until the middle of the third night, when they were escorted by armed soldiers in a bus. “We were taken to Mile II and this became clear to us only in the morning,” he said. He said at some instance, they (the detainees) saw Sadibou’s face swollen and his body size increased.
Gomez accused Ex Lieutenant Kejau Touray, of falsely accusing him of being part of the Farafenni failed rebel attack, which left some soldiers dead, and others wounded. Gomez explained how he was arrested and taken to the NIA, following the failed Farafenni attack. He said he was questioned by the NIA for hours, but he denied any involvement in the said attack. “Kejau Touray told the NIA, that I was part of the attackers. He said I was their leader,” Gomez remarked. He added that he was told by the NIA that Kejau Touray told them that he was the leader of the Farafenni failed attack.
Gomez, who shed tears before the Commissioners of the TRRC, said there was no iota of truth in Kejau Touray’s claims; that Touray was among the officers commanding the military police.
Gomez said they were subjected to mock execution tortures; that this followed, false claims made by Singhateh and co, who informed Gomez and co that their co-detainees have been executed. He added that sounds of gunshots were heard in the prison. Gomez said he was convinced at this time that his co-detainees have been executed. He said when Edward Singhateh and co were leaving the prison, he was told by Singhateh that they will be back and he would be the next to be executed.
Gomez told the Commission that he later picked up a job at the National Youth Service Scheme before he was appointed by the Jammeh Government to serve as a military adviser in Ethiopia; that he also served as Minister of Youth and Sports in Jammeh’s Government before he was sacked.