The former Gambian Vice President Saihou Sabally, was part of a plot to allegedly overthrow the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara back in April of 1994, few months before dictator Jammeh and some young army officers overthrew the thirty years PPP rule, Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission heard on Thursday. Former Aide DE Camp (ADC) to President Jawara, Ex-Army Captain Momodou Lamin Gassama made the revelations before a packed TRRC hall in Banjul yesterday.
Mr. Gassama, who flew from the United Kingdom, where he now resides to testify before the TRRC, said, he was informed by Pa Sallah Jagne, the former Inspector General of police about Mr. Sabally alleged involvement in the plot to overthrow Jawara’s government. Gassama, who attended primary education in Niamina Dankunku, before proceeding to Kaur Secondary School, Muslim High and Saint Augustine’s High School respectively told the Commission that Pa Sallah Jagne, had an in-depth knowledge about the alleged plot. He asked the TRRC to quiz Jeng about the veracity of his claims if he appears before Commission.
According to Mr. Gassama, who had military training in Pakistan, before he was commissioned by the army, meetings were held in Sukuta and elsewhere around the Greater Banjul area in respect of the alleged coup plot involving Sabally. He says he later learned that some of the perpetrators of the July 22nd coup were part of the alleged coup. He says money was given to the plotters.
Saihou Sabally was the Vice President at the time. He was also doubling as Defense Minister at the time, Gassama said.
Gassama said one of the Directors of the defunct National Security Services (NSS) Samba Bah, who uncovered the coup plot was fired from the spy agency. He said Bah’s report was presented to the authorities at the time but was fired for exposing the coup plot allegedly involving Sabally. He says he is not sure whether Bah’s intelligence report about the said alleged coup plot was with Gambia’s intelligence community.
Mr. Gassama also commented on the 1994 coup. He said he was in the United Kingdom with President Jawara, when Lamin Kaba Bajo, the former Commander of the Presidential Guards informed him about an imminent demonstration that was to be staged by Yahya Jammeh and co. He said Jawara was never briefed about any planned coup by his intelligence chief the late Kebba Ceesay, while they were in the United Kingdom. He says Kebba Ceesay came to the State House requesting to see Jawara on the day of the coup. He added that Saihou Sabally also never briefed Jawara about any impending coup upon Jawara’s returned from the UK.
Sir Dawda and his delegation returned home on July 21st, 2019, and the next day, a coup was launched against the Jawara administration, he said.
He says Saihou Sabally was not present at the airport when Jawara landed in Banjul. Sabally was said to have traveled to his native village to attend a funeral.
Jawara was received at the airport by his Justice Minister Assan Jallow. Jallow never accompanied Jawara to the State House. He proceeded to his residence, when the convoy arrived in the Serre-Kunda area.
Jawara then asked Gassama about the whereabouts of Assan Jallow and was told by Gassama that Jallow never made it to the State House. He instead proceeded to his home from the airport. Jawara shook his head and went back into his bedroom.
According to Gassama, President Jawara was supposed to meet with the Chinese Ambassador to The Gambia on the very day of the coup. He said Saihou Sabally arrived at the State House that early morning after he (Sabally) was aware of the planned coup. He says Sabally never briefed Jawara again of the July 22nd 1994 coup.
Gassama went as far as informing Sabally about reports he received about disturbances at the Yundum barracks. Sabally told him that he was aware of the situation.
At the time, the American Ambassador to The Gambia Andrew Winter was in Sabally’s office. Winter had accompanied some American naval warship officers to the VP’s office. They were in Banjul to take part in an army operation. The operation was initially scheduled to take place in Mandinari, but it was later relocated to Banjul, according to Gassama. Gassama said he was also not aware of the military exercise. He learnt about it at the eleventh hour.
The American forces were supposed to engage their Gambian colleagues in an operation to takeover the capital city Banjul. Gassama says Sabally never informed President Jawara about the operation. He said Jawara was also not aware about the presence of an American warship at the port of Banjul.
While the coupists were moving steadily towards Banjul, Sabally told Gassama that Jawara was a stubborn old man, who was not willing to vacate the State House. He said he was told by Sabally to prevail on Jawara to leave the State House and board the awaiting American warship for his safety. He added that there was no indication from Jawara to suggest that he (Jawara) was asked by Sabally to leave the State House.
Gassama also said Jawara had told him categorically that he was not leaving the State House—adding that he (Jawara) hasn’t done anything wrong to warrant his departure from his office.
Jawara was finally convinced by his family to leave. He later boarded the US Ambassador’s car, and was transported to the ports, where he boarded the US warship. He later proceeded to Dakar, Senegal, where he stayed for sometime before finally resettling to the United Kingdom.
WRITTEN BY PA NDERRY MBAI
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