By Yankuba Jallow
Demba Njie, a former chief of staff of the State House and interim commander of the State Guard under the AFPRC reign, has on Wednesday the 27th February 2019, told the TRRC that ex-president Yahya Jammeh ordered for the killing of soldiers allegedly involved in 11th November 1994 coup plot.
He also told the Commission his recount in relation to the death of Koro Ceesay, a former Minister of Finance during the transition period during the days of the Junta as well as the fracas among the members of Armed Forces Provincial Ruling Council (AFPRC) resulting to the arrests of Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara.
HIS NARRATION ON JULY 22 COUP
He said the guards at the State House gave up very easily to the coup makers because they could have succeeded if they had resisted the coup. He said the guards could have done something to protect the president and defend the Constitution.
He said on the day of the coup, he was sick and he did not go to work. He said five days later, he reported working at the State House where he met Yahya Jammeh who was the chairman of the AFPRC and head of the government. He said Jammeh was his junior whilst he was an adjutant at the Fajara Barracks. He described Jammeh as an indiscipline officer who hardly adheres to orders and seldom takes command.
He said after the arrest and detention of Captain Ebrima Kambi, the Chairman of the AFPRC appointed him as the Chief of Staff at the State House and overseer of the State Guard. He said he was responsible for the staff at the State House and giving security advice to Chairman Jammeh. He said he was also responsible for receiving complaints from government departments and channelling them to the head of state, Yahya Jammeh.
“I used to spend most of my time with Yahya Jammeh at the State House,” he said.
ABOUT THE NOVEMBER 11 CARNAGE OF SOLDIERS
The witness said he went on duty on the 10th November 1994 and was told that Edward Singhatey, Yankuba Touray, Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara who were all part of the Council had gone to Yundum Barracks to discuss with the soldiers about the rumour of the November 11 coup plot and to engage them to refrain from chipping in in the purported coup. He added that the whole idea of their visit to the Barracks was to discourage them from participating in the coup plot.
In the early hours of November 11, the witness said Captain Kalifa Bajinka called him and informed him that there was a coup d’état going on at the State House and that he was supposed to report at the State House immediately. He said an escort was sent to him and he dressed in his uniform and went with them to the State House.
At the State House, he said he met Chairman Jammeh in a confused situation because he was insisting that he should be allowed to go and fight the coup plotters at the Barracks. He said he was part of those who discouraged Jammeh from going and told him that the situation would be handled diligently.
The witness adduced that at around 6 am on the 11th November 1994; Chairman Jammeh received a call from his council members. He said at the time Yahya Jammeh was talking on a phone, they were together at the State House.
“Yahya Jammeh told them ‘Kill them all, the ring leaders’,” the witness adduced.
The witness further told the Commission that at around 11 am, the council members as well as Peter Singhatey, Almamo Manneh and their guards came to the State House and were jubilating as if they were victorious in a war.
THE FRACAS IN THE AFPRC
He said the Council members were united at the beginning until sometime when Edward Singhatey and Yahya Jammeh decided to eliminate Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara.
He said as the overseer of the State Guard, he was instructed by Charman Jammeh that any Council member who comes after 6 pm should be shot and killed by the guards. He said at the time Jammeh was giving that instruction, Edward Singhatey was sitting with Jammeh alone in his office. He said both Yahya Jammeh and Edward Singhatey were looking furious.
The witness narrated that the order he passed to the guards was a modified one because he did not include the shooting of the council members. He said the order he passed to them was that ‘no council member should be allowed to come in after 6 pm and they should be asked to return home until the following day’.
He said Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara were closer than other council members.
“I don’t see the closeness of Edward Singhatey to the other council members. He was overconfident of himself and he was not happy of being at the 4thposition in the hierarchy of the Council,” he said.
He said Sabally was over ambitious and he wanted to supersede the other council members in terms of rank and control.
THE ARREST OF SANNA SABALLY AND SADIBOU HYDARA
He said the duo were arrested at the State House one after the other. He said both of them were called to answer to the Chairman and it was Sanna who first arrived and the first to be arrested by the soldiers at the State House.
At Mile II, the witness said Edward Singhatey, Peter Singhatey, Almamo Manneh, Musa Jammeh and Sergeant Alagie Martins (who is now a General in the army) tortured Sabally and Hydara.
He said the arrest of Hydara and Sabally made Edward Singhatey achieve his target of being the Vice Chairperson of the AFPRC and Minister of Defense.
ON THE DEATH OF OUSMAN KORO CEESAY
He said he was the one who introduced Ceesay to Yahya Jammeh as a person he could work with. The witness said Ceesay was appointed by Jammeh as the Permanent Secretary Office of the President and later promoted to become the Minister of Finance. He said this made Ceesay become very close to Jammeh but Edward built jealousy because he has never welcomed the idea of a person getting close to Jammeh.
“Edward doesn’t want any person to be between him and Yahya Jammeh,” the witness said.
He said he left the Gambia for the OAU summit in Addis Ababa as an advance team for Jammeh. He added that Yahya Jammeh later joined him in Ethiopia for the Summit. He said the day Jammeh left the Gambia was the same Koro was murdered.
He said the State Guard soldiers who witnessed the departure of Jammeh at the airport told him that Yahya Jammeh and Edward Singhateh held two side talks at the boot of the aircraft. He said he was told that when Jammeh left, Edward asked Koro Ceesay to join his car. He explained that when Ceesay joined Edward in his car, he drove him to the residence of Yankuba Touray in Kololi where Ceesay was murdered. He said after they murdered Ceesay, his body was dumped at a Bridge in Jambur at a bridge.
ON HIS CAREER
The witness told the Commission that he was born on 8th March 1958 in Kaur, in the Central River Region.
He said in 1997 to 2001, he was the Chief of Protocol at the State House. He said he was removed from that role because he refused to allow his wife to participate in the APRC campaign in the 2001 presidential elections. He said at that time, Jammeh gave an instruction that all the wives of officers in the army should wear camouflage trouser and APRC white T-shirts and campaign for him. He said he declined for his wife to participate in the campaign because he was not a politician, but a military man.
He said he was handed a dismissal letter and reinstated in the year 2007 when the then CDS, General Lang Tombong approached him and persuaded him to return to the service. He said he was made the Director of Admin and dismissed later when his name was mentioned in the alleged coup headed by General Lang Tombong Tamba although he has never been given a dismissal letter. He said he has not been paid his salary from November 2009 to September 2017 when he retired. He said his salary was seized.
He said at the time, Yahya Jammeh he did not do any officer training but was accorded the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Sitting continues today at 10 am.