By Momodou Jarju/ Yankuba Jallow
The Chairman of the then Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) Yahya Jammeh, had vowed to have cause a lot of families to weep if one of his council members Sanna Sabally, allowed him to join them in foiling the mission of the alleged November 11,1994 coup plotters, the 30th witness of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), revealed.
John Charles B. Mendy who was an Orderly to Sanna Sabally at the time, said he enlisted into the Army in 1991 after completing Senior School. Mendy said this during his testimony before Commissioners of the TRRC yesterday March 19th 2019.
Born in 1972, Mendy said Jammeh told the following to Sanna Sabally: ‘‘I am going with you guys.’’ Mendy said Sanna refused Jammeh’s request to join them and asked him (Jammeh) if he does not trust him. Mendy said Jammeh then swore in Arabic that if he goes with them, a lot of families will weep that night.
Mendy told Commissioners that the former AFPRC junta leader said this in the evening of 10th November 1994, as they prepared to embark on that fateful night. He said at that juncture, he started to have mixed-feelings about the whole mission saying, he knew that it was a mission of either to kill or be killed.
EARLIER THAT MORNING
Mendy explained that on the morning of the 10th of November 1994, he was on duty at State House with the Vice Chairperson of the AFPRC Sanna Sabally, until around 11am when he went to the market to buy some CDs.
That upon arrival at State House, he came to know that Council members except Yahya Jammeh, have left for Yundum Barracks. He said he eventually followed them.
Mendy said he arrived at Yundum Barracks at around 1pm where he met Council members and the alleged coup plotters in a meeting at the ante-room; adding he was not privy to what was going on inside because he was a private and junior soldier. He said it would not be normal for him to enter especially when one is not invited.
According to Mendy, the meeting lasted for over an hour; that while the meeting was ongoing, he could hear yelling and shouting. “You could hear some saying we know what you are up to and others were saying we did not organize anything,” he said.
When asked what he understood from that situation, Mendy opined that Council members were trying to convince Lt. Basiru Barrow and co., not to go ahead with their alleged plan; that Sanna Sabally informed him that a list of the alleged coup plotters was with him and they will be silened (killed) if they go ahead with the coup. He testified thereafter, they left Yundum Barracks for State House where the Council members converged upstairs to brief the Chairperson of the junta Yahya Jammeh, about the outcome of the meeting.
Testifying further, Mendy said around 5pm, Sanna Sabally and himself went home and took lunch; and in the evening, Sabally called them (himself and Sabally’s other Orderlies and bodyguards) and told them to get to their rooms and dress up in military combat which they did. He said they left for State House where they met other Council members including Yankuba Touray, Saddibou Hydara, Edward Singhateh and other soldiers. He said after the Council members discussed with Yahya Jammeh, they came out and Sanna Sabally briefed them about the mission of foiling an attempted coup.
He further revealed that Jammeh came out and told Sanna Sabally that he wanted to go with them which Sanna refused. He added that was when Jammeh vowed that lot of families would have wept if he joined them.
SANNA AS LEADER OF THE CONVOY TO YUNDUM BARRACKS
Mendy continued that a convoy of about forty soldiers boarded in six vehicles and headed to Yundum Barracks. According to him, upon arrival at the barracks, they met one private soldier called AK Touray. He said Sabally told him to “control Touray and should in case he tried to escape, let him finish him.” Mendy however said he let AK Touray to go and told him to say he escaped if he was caught; that thereafter, he went and joined the rest of the convoy at the barracks.
Mendy recalled collecting the then Army Commander at the time, Babucarr Jatta, and brought him to Yundum Barracks as ordered by Sanna Sabally, after they had seized the barracks. He said he held side talks with Council members before they drove to Fajara Barracks.
MENDY ADMITS INVOLVEMENT IN KILLINGS
Mendy said when they arrived at Fajara Barracks, Sanna ordered them to fire at the captured soldiers and this was at about 10 to 12 meters away. He added this was around the main gate at the field; that this was the time the shooting started.“I am part and parcel of those who did the shooting,” he confirmed to Commissioners.
Mendy further told the TRRC that after the shooting, Lt. Basiru Barrow and Abdoulie Dot. Faal lost their lives while Sir Jackal, Tumbul Tamba and Babucarr Njie (Njie Ponkal), ran away. He said they followed them but could not trace them.
He testified that the corpses of Lt. Barrow and Dot. Faal were put in a truck and transported to Yundum Barracks.
ALLEGED TORTURE OF SANNA SABALLY’S WIFE AT NIA
John Charles B. Mendy also told the Commission that Sanna Sabally’s wife was tortured at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Mendy made this disclosure while winding-up his testimony before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Tuesday, 19th March 2019.
He said while at the NIA, he heard Barakatou Colley who was the wife of Sanna Sabally yelling, crying and she was saying, ‘you are killing me. You are using (electric) machine on me.’
“I concluded that she (Colley) was being tortured and I saw her in the NIA premises,” the witness said.
JCB Mendy told the Commission that there was a photographer (journalist) who came to the residence of Sanna Sabally and was trying to take pictures (photos) at the naming ceremony of his (Sabally’s) child, but he was asked to stop. He added that the journalist forcefully took the photo of Sanna Sabally who ordered for the camera to be confiscated and the film (of the camera) to be destroyed.
“Was he beaten?” Essa M. Faal, the lead Counsel of the Commission asked.
“What I could recall is that he was rushed onto by the guards and myself, and we confiscated the camera and destroyed the film,” the witness adduced.
“Was he kicked, slapped and beaten?” the Counsel asked,
“It could be. It is likely that he was beaten. There was a push and pull at the time the camera was being confiscated. I cannot confirm that he was beaten or slapped because it was in the midst of a crowd. I only participated in the confiscation of the camera,” the witness responded.
The witness added that a day or two after the naming ceremony, Sanna Sabally was arrested and detained. He added that when he enquired from Edward Singhateh about Sanna’s arrest, Singhatey told him that Sanna wanted to kill the “president”. He indicated that he joined the Gambia National Army on the same day with Edward Singhatey and both of them did the army training together and passed out on the same day.
Whilst at the office of Edward Singhatey, Almamo Manneh came and asked them to assemble and threatened to deal with them inferring that they were supportive of Sanna. He added that they were rescued by the Chief of Defense Staff, Baboucar Jatta who asked them to go home and report to work on the following Monday.
He adduced that on Monday when he reported for work, he was asked to report to the NIA for interrogation. Upon arrival at the NIA, he said he was interrogated and taken to Mile II where he was detained for a night and brought back to the NIA.
The witness said he was returned to Mile II where he was detained.
“I have never been tortured at Mile II and the NIA though the living condition at Mile II was not conducive,” the witness said.
He described the condition at Mile II as horrible. He said they used to sleep on a piece of plank with no blankets. He said their uniforms were taken from them and they were only left with a singlet. He added that they used to sleep in an open hall at the Remand Wing of Mile II.
“Our details were taken at Mile though we were not told the offence (s) we were charged with and we were not allowed access to a lawyer or family visit. The food that we were served at Mile II was very horrible that I won’t even give that to a dog,” he said.
He told the Commission that he was detained for 641 days at Mile II whereas most of the detainees were released earlier. He said two weeks after his release, he was asked to report to work. He however added that after the Farafenni attack, he was again taken to the NIA for interrogation as it was alleged that his voice was heard there with Sherrif Gomez. He said he was released because it was confirmed that he was with CDS Jatta on that day.
Whilst under question and answer with the Commissioners, the witness said Alagie fired at Ebou Ceesay.
On his recommendation, the witness said people should not stage a coup because it brings backwardness, misunderstanding and trouble. He beseeched the families of the personnel killed during the days of the AFPRC junta to forgive the wrongdoers (for the purpose of reconciliation). He called on the senior officers in the Gambia Armed Forces not to use their junior ones to embark on a horrible venture as has happened in July 1994. He apologized to all those whom he may have wronged during his six (6) months stay with the Council (AFPRC) and asked for their forgiveness. He called on the President of the Republic to look into the welfare of the soldiers as well as called on him to carry on regular visits in order to acquaint himself with their conditions. He called on the government to support the affected families in terms of providing access to education and feeding because of the loss of their breadwinners.
Mendy’s Monday and Tuesday’s testimonies had some difference with previous testimonies by other witness of Dot. Faal’s killing. He said Dot Faal was on his feet when he was about to be executive at the Fajara Barracks while previous testimonies revealed that Dot. Faal could not walk, due to the beatings he received at Mile II prison. Hearings continue tomorrow at 10 am.