By Yankuba Jallow
Lieutenant Colonel Baboucar Sanyang has explained how soldiers and officers, who were executed on the 11th of November 1994, were buried.
Sanyang made this whilst summing-up his testimony before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Thursday the 21st March 2019.
He said the officers that were taken away and executed included Lieutenants Gibril Seye, Abdoulie Bah, Bakary Manneh and Lamin Jarju Cadet Sillah.
He said they were buried at the Yundum Barracks but at the time these officers were being buried, the soldiers’ morale was completely down because of frustration.
“The orderlies to the Council were the ones doing the burial. They were all having their rifles,” the witness explained.
According to him, the burial was done by Lance Corporal Batch Samba Jallow, Lamin Fatty, JCB Mendy, Corporal Lamin Colley (a medic), Ensa Mendy, One Suso, Baba Njie, RSM Gomez, Corporal Albert Mendy and others.
“The RSM was the one with the orderlies. He was supervising and working with the orderlies to the Council and coordinating the burial. He was telling these people to do burial quickly,” the witness said.
Lieutenant Colonel Sanyang denied the allegation that he was the supervisor of the burial of the executed soldiers and officers.
“It is not true. That has never happened,” the witness said.
He said he participated in the digging of those ditches where the soldiers and officers were buried. He said the digging took place well before the July 1994 coup. In his explanation, he said the ditches were dug for toilets and this was during the time of the Nigerian Army Training Team (NATAG). He said at that time, soldiers used to go to a primary school and used their toilets. He said there was an instruction that each Company within the Barracks should dig their own toilets. He said the Bravo Company dug the ditch on the left-hand side and Alpha Company dug the one on the right-hand side. He said the Bravo Company one was completely covered.
“Lieutenants ‘Dot’ Faal and Basirou Camara as well as Sergeant Fafa Nyang were buried in the ditch dug by the Bravo Company whereas the other bulk were buried in the Alpha Company ditch,” the witness explained.
His Testimony About Events Before November 11
He said officers (senior soldiers) were reluctant to join a parade rehearsal for upcoming Remembrance Day celebration. He explained that he went to Adjutant Alieu Bah and Lieutenant Basirou Barrow –the Camp Commander and told him the attitude of the officers about the rehearsal. He told the Commission that Lieutenant Barrow used to tell them that he would do something about it but the problem persisted. He said sometimes officers would come for the rehearsal but would come late; sometimes at the closing session of the rehearsal.
He told the Commission that there was a day when he convened a senior Non-Commissioned Officers meeting in the camp where the soldiers were complaining about the Council (Armed Forces Provincial Ruling Council). He disclosed that the complaints were about the Council’s failure to adhere to the promises they made to them, adding that the promises included; giving them money, promotion and better accommodation.
He told the Commission that there was a day when the camp commander, Lieutenant Basirou Barrow told him that the Council members were liars because they have failed to fulfil the promises they made to the soldiers. He adduced that Adjutant Bah mentioned similar things to him about the Council members.
He said at this time, the morale of the men reduced because the Gambia was faced with a shortage of rice and that soldiers were considerate of their families’ sufferings, although the soldiers have their rice in the store. He testified that Lieutenant Barrow addressed the men about the issue that the government would address the issue of rice before his transfer to the defence headquarters. He said Captain Momodou Marong replaced Lieutenant Barrow as the Yundum Barracks Commander.
The witness explained that after Marong succeeded Barrow, the behaviour of the officers improved. He said on the 10th November 1994, the officers did not turn up for the final day of the rehearsal because they were notified that the Council members would be visiting the camp. He said Lieutenant Gibril Saye was the person who informed him that the Council members were on their way coming to the Barracks.
The Visit by the Council Members
He said the Council members under the leadership of Captain Sanna Sabally visited the Yundum Barracks and were welcomed by officers at the entrance of the camp. He said Captain Sabally came with Captains Edward Singhtey, Yankuba Touray, Sadibou Hydara and Denis Coker as well as the then army commander, Colonel Baboucar Jatta.
Continuing his testimony, he said the Council members, as well as their entourage, proceeded to address the soldiers who were lined-up in a parade. He said whilst in his office, he heard a gunshot around the area where the Council members were addressing the soldiers. He said when he proceeded to the ground, he heard Captain Singhatey telling the men “The Council is not afraid of anybody and anyone who is part of it should change their mind or else they would be dealt with seriously”. He said after the meeting, the Council members left.
The Eve of 11th November 1994
He said on his way from the McCarthy Square in Banjul, one Corporal Buba Jammeh informed him that soldiers were coming to the Yundum Barracks and he couldn’t understand. He said he proceeded to the Barracks assuming that things were normal and proceeded to his room within the Barracks. Whilst in his room, the witness said he received several calls from a military police officer for him to find his way out of the Barracks because he was part of a list of persons to be arrested by the coup plotters. He said he sent a soldier with a driver to go and inform Captain Marong about the ongoing activity of soldiers within the Barracks.
He said one Lance Corporal Alagie Kebbeh came to him and told him that ‘it was time to get the Council members because they have failed to fulfil the promises they made to us’. The witness said Kebbeh thereafter told him to go and mobilize and assemble the men for the mission; that mission was to replace the Council members with new members. He said after Kebbeh left, he found his way out of the Barracks.
“As an RSM responsible for discipline and orderliness in the Barracks, for me to receive an instruction from a Corporal, I know things were not normal,” the witness said.
He said he came back to the Barracks on the following day (on the 11th November). He explained that he was arrested by Lance Corporal Mafuji Corr and detained alongside Captain Marong – the Yundum Camp Commander for about an hour.
“The situation was chaotic; there were many soldiers with weapons and we were pushed into the cell. The guard room was full and there were many soldiers in the cell. The people were quiet and there was total frustration,” the witness testified.
He said himself, Captain Marong, Lieutenant Abdoulie Bah, a Sergeant and one other were detained at the corridor of the Guard Room because the cells were full. He said when Sanna Sabally came, he released five of them. He added that Sabally came with Captains Sadibou Hydara, Edward Singhtey and Yankuba Touray.
He told the Commission that after his release, he went to his office to assume work. He said he went to the Anti-Room to meet his Commander, Captain Marong but he heard Sabally speaking on phone taking orders.
“I heard Sanna Sabally saying: yes sir, we would do that exactly to set an example,” the witness adduced.
He said after Sabally’s telephone conversation, he requested for Sergeant Fafa Nyang to be brought to him.
“I left them where they were and went to my office. I met with Lance Corporal Batch Samba Jallow escorting Fafa Nyang to the place where Sanna Sabally and his people were standing,” the witness said.
He told the Commission that within few minutes, he heard gunshots from the direction Sabally and the other officers were. He said he went to his Commander to talk to him but they were frustrated because he was totally against the action of the Council members. He said he proceeded around the Cook-House where he met the body of Fafa Nyang lying near a truck.
“I returned to my office because I couldn’t bear it. Fafa Nyang was a very close friend of mine,” the witness told the Commission.
He said after this, the Council members left the Yundum Barracks and came back sometime during the afternoon with a land rover where the remaining officers in the cell at the Guard Room were boarded on and taken away.
“They went alive and came back dead,” the witness explained.
He said the officers that were taken away included; Lieutenants Gibril Saye, Abdoulie Bah, Bakary Manneh, Lamin Jarju and Cadet Sillah,” the witness adduced.
“I saw the back of the land rover vehicle with (green) leaves covering dead people because I saw (human) legs,” the witness said.
He said the soldiers and officers who took the soldiers for execution included; Corporal Alagie Kanyi, Corporal Batch Samba Jallow, Private JCB Mendy, CDS Baboucar Jatta, Captains Edward Singhatey, Sanna Sabally, Yankuba Touray and Sadibou Hydara as well as their orderlies.