GAMBIA: OPEN LETTER TO MOMODOU LAMIN GASSAMA

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Dear Momodou Lamin Gassama,

This is Samsudeen Sarr responding to your deposition on February 14, 2019 to the TRRC where you unnecessary left impression to the Country that I could have possibly been a coconspirator in the July 1994 coup de tat.

For no good reasons within my imagination, you fabricated that you sent me on the morning of July 22, 1994 to the Gambia Marine Unit base to get 50 caliber machine guns to reinforce the firepower at the state house and I ended up calling from Radio Gambia broadcasting station for reasons you couldn’t understand. There, you deliberately categorized me among those who had participated in bringing the coup to a success.

Your lies started to be unveiled the moment you claimed that on your own initiative, you took charge of the command and control of the state house security that morning after realizing that the whole guards including their commanders had disappeared except the one person you saw pretending to be “Rambo”  Sergeant Camara, alias “Bombarde”. Meaning that the only soldiers accessible to carry out your operational orders were beside me, Captain Pa Modou Ann the GNA officer you said offered his service to you and who more or less was the famous warrior just arriving from the battlefields of Liberia. I had never been to Liberia. In fact the conventional wisdom was that I was scared to go to Liberia to the extent where I deliberately shot myself on my leg in May 1988 just not to go to Liberia in a war that started in September 1990.

GNA officers like you still peddle that nonsense but could never clarify the stupidity behind that false allegation.

The only reason I can see for mentioning Captain Ann, the warrior, volunteering his service to you, was to send the arcane message to those silly officers signaling them on how you were juxtaposing the GNA warrior to the GNA coward who was a mere staff officer at the defense ministry.

Anyway since you never wanted to admit that I volunteered to go to the Marine Unit but said that you indeed sent me there; how come you didn’t send Captain Ann the “warrior” who by every measure of his “experience and bravery” could have perform a far better operation than me, the “coward”?

You said that you first went to inform the Vice President Sahou Sabally about the ongoing coup and found him receiving the American guests in his office where you left him after he told you that he was aware of the situation and was pretty much monitoring it.

You then came down and ordered me to go and get the big guns at the Marine Unit.

The next progression of your actions was to go into the President’s house to let him know for the first time about what was happening.  But when you were about to get to the door of his bedroom the Vice President Sahou Sabally whom you just left upstairs entertaining the American suddenly emerged out of Sir Dawda’s bedroom and telling you in the Mandinka language that to better go and talk him because of his stubbornness. Why you skipped how or when he climbed down from the building three floors above, walked across the spacious yard unnoticed and entering Sir Dawda’s bedroom to advise him on the need to vacate the State House punch a big hole on the authenticity of your story.

You didn’t simply sound stupid there but was the first signal I read that you were going to eventually throw Sahou Sabally under the bus for your selfish credit and fame. I will get into the Sahou Sabally matter at the right time of the sequence of your story that I want to follow step by step.

But let’s look at this other one about the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pa Sallah Press Jagne. You explained that he was arrested, put in handcuffs and locked up in a cell in the American vessel as soon as his presence there was known to everybody. Yes, I later asked the IGP and he further elucidated how few minutes after being locked up, the door was eventually opened just for Sir Dawda to tell him why he was under arrest. That he IGP Pa Sallah Jagne was the leader of the mutiny. I am sure you were right behind Sir Dawda when he was accusing Press. So what was the hypocrisy all about when you said that upon your arrival at Dakar, Senegal and the IGP decided to return to the Gambia that Sir Dawda warned him with words of wisdom not to go and endanger his life? Press was not that dumb like you; if the coup had failed, let’s say by the intervention of the American marines or though the help of Senegal and the PPP put back to power, Press would have been the first among the members of the security forces to face a court martial for “being the leader” with a possible verdict to either spend the rest of his life in prison or faced a firing squad.

Likewise, knowing what I know now especially about you, you certainly would have been the principal witness of the prosecutor in my court martial for seizing the radio station in an effort to help reinforce the coup operation. I will now take you through the sequence of events.

First, take a look at how you contradicted yourself in that narrative where you claimed to have sent me to the Marine Unit to bring you weapons on July 22, 1994. You had totally forgotten your assertion that when you arrived with Sir Dawda from England on July 21, 1994, the very day the USS Lamour County docked at the Banjul Port around 5:00 pm, none of you, you said, was aware of the presence of the Americans or any exercise slated to take place between them and the GNA. If that was so how then in the next morning around 8:00 a.m. you knew about the availability of the 50-caliber machine guns brought in by the same battleship? There again you simply exposed your unawareness of that inconsistency generally seen in folks bent on stealing other people’s ideas and presenting them as their own. Careful listeners with average intelligence quotient will straightway see your evasion of the truth.

Of course, it was the USS Lamour County that actually brought the machine guns the previous day that were to be delivered to the GNA in a ceremony at the Marine Unit base that morning.

So just swallow your pride and acknowledge the fact that I told you about those guns that morning and volunteered to go and explore the possibility of using them with the Marine unit platoon to match the firepower of the approaching GNA soldiers. But in stealing the idea as yours you ended up making a big fool of yourself.

That said, I simply didn’t want to be anywhere around the State Guard Unit in that state of uncertainty that morning  after my first experience with their officers particularly with their commander, Major Turo Jawaneh who had treated me while serving there like I was not even a Gambian.

You remember? I had to plead with you Momodou Lamin to dawn on Major Turo Jawneh to allow me to park my official car at the same space used for two years by my predecessor Major Momodou Bojang. It was the small parking lot reserved for some officials working in the state house including the military staff officer. Major Jawnah as soon as I took over from Major Bojang, seized that privilege from me forcing me to be parking outside where vehicle owners had to rush in the morning to secure a spot.

When Jawneh first sent one of his guards to notify me that he was ordered by his commander to stop me from using Major Bojang’s parking space I thought it was all a mistake that could resolve by talking to him directly. So I went to his house that evening after work, a block away from mine at the Mile 7 government quarters to find out why the privilege was seized. The guard at his gate told me to wait outside while he announced my presence to the major. After waiting for a while, he appeared with a pistol in hand asking what I wanted to talk to him about. I told him why I was there and he put it categorically to me that it was an irreversible order, a privilege taken back, period, and walked right back into his fortress. He wouldn’t give me a single reason for treating me differently from Major Momodou Bojang.

As commander at State House the guy was very arrogant to me particularly known for claiming that President Jawara was his uncle. Thank God he was soon transferred to Fajara Baracks as the new commander there.

Captain Kabba Bajo took over the command from him and for sometime maintained the “Jawneh order” of denying me the free parking space until I talked to you Momodou Lamin to talk to him. Captain Bajo at last lifted the embargo. He was more understanding.

But for the rest of my stay there from 1992 to 1994, almost everyone in uniform, except perhaps the likes of Lang Tombong Tamba and a few others treated me with hostility and contempt.

So when I left for the Marine Unit that morning the last place I wanted to return to was at that hostile environment.

You read in my book after we had talked about that situation many times; that I couldn’t after all get the guns at the Marine Unit, but decided to drive to Yundum Baracks to find out what was going on. incidentally I found the soldiers  already at the Denton Bridge ready for a fight if they were not allowed to cross over by the TSG who were controlling it.

There were no mobile phones at the time otherwise you know that I would have updated you on every detail of my activities.

Moreover Momodou Lamin, from 1999 the year I left the country on exile to the USA up to 2014 when I reconciled my difference with President Jammeh, we had maintained a consistent cordial relationship in which we had discussed everything under the sun, especially about what had transpired before, during and after the coup. You were among the first people in the Diaspora to purchase and read my book where I wrote about what had happened that day. Therefore, to now say that you didn’t know what I was doing at the radio station is by every measure of reasoning an absolute treachry.

Okay, in 2014 when I reconciled with President Jammeh, our relationship changed breaking that mutual understanding we had enjoyed before; although I had harbored nothing against you but respect until you showed up at the TRRC to unveil your true colors to me.

If your decision to antagonize me pivots on my reconciliation with President Jammeh which I believe did, how irrational could you be in parading the values of ex-President Sir Dawda Jawara as that of a saint’s to the TRRC when his government was overthrown by President Jammeh, but he still took the same decision to reconcile with him well before I ever thought about that?

I remember the discussions we used to have when President Jammeh was reaching out to Sir Dawda to return home and be accorded the treatment of an honorable ex-president with all the rights and privileges to go with the eminence. Didn’t you tell me that all of you including the former Secretary General Sara Janha, the former army commander and ambassador to France Colonel Ndow Njie, the former protocol officer Mr. Modou Bobb and the whole crew in England advised Sir Dawda not to accept or even trust Jammeh’s offer? You elaborated on how you all arrived to a consensus that any offer from President Jammeh accepted by President Jawara would be considered a betrayal to all of you.

Betrayal where? In his book Kairaba, Sir Dawda bewailed over how he was in the end disoriented with virtually everybody around him except his close family members a frustration driven to its pinnacle when in one of his last campaign trips to America he asked Mr. Sara Janha to accompany him. Then when coming back, without any forewarning, Mr. Janha at the airport just told him that he had other unfinished businesses to take care of  in America and therefore couldn’t fly back to England with him. Sir Dawda wrote that for the first time throughout his life as a leader he was left alone on his own to take care of himself plus handling his heavy and numerous pieces of luggage.

And from what you once told me Momodou Lamin, the worst was yet to come later.

That Mr. M. C. Cham his former minister of finance, who recently appeared at the TRRC, conspired with certain con artists and lured Sir Dawda into a bogus investment deal, deceiving him into mortgaging his only house in London but to later learned that Mr. Cham had disappeared with the money, subsequently making him lose the house to the bank. Didn’t you tell me that the former president was given an eviction notice around the time President Jammeh had reached out and invited him to come back home? Yes you did!

Nonetheless to be fair with Mr. M.C. Cham, I was later given another version of the story different from yours. That the former finance minister guaranteed Sir Dawda for the bank loan that financed the house over forty years ago and when he could no longer afford the payments of the property, Mr. Cham was contacted and he came to England and released the house’s title back to the bank. However, at anyway we dissect the issue, his conditioned remained the same; that Sir Dawda was going to be evicted at any time.

I was still at the time writing against the APRC government while folks like encouraging me to keep on doing it never uttered a word against the Jammeh government. Instead you would from time to time inform me about your preparations to visit your families in the Gambia or to finish projects there already started as if I had no families to visit or shouldn’t consider starting a project.

My mother Ya Rohey died in 2004; my grandmother Mam Anta Ndow who literally nursed me as a child died in 2005; my only younger brother Ablie Sarr died in 2007; my uncle, the last brother of my mother Mustapha Gaye died in 2010; and in all these tragedies, most you never even console me with a message of condolence, while I wept alone in my misery for not being able to go home and bury them. That hurt dearly Momodou Lamin. But to you all that didn’t mattered. I just had to stay there leading the struggle for you to live your uninterrupted clandestine lives. That was far heartbreaking than evicting Sir Dawda in his London house. But to you Momodou Lamin, Sir Dawda could be forgiven while I couldn’t.

Lady Chilen, Sir Dawda’s first wife can bear me witness on this one. I was with the late Lieutenant Momodou Camara, the first ADC to Sir Dawda at his apartment on Valentine Avenue in the Bronx, New York when we both talked to President Sir Dawda encouraging him to please take the offer from President Jammeh before it was too late when nobody could assure him another shelter with his family if evicted.

You have to read and understand Sir Dawda’s book to see how the people he had most trusted were either cherished loyalists or outright traitors.

Momodou Lamin, I will never accuse you of betraying Sir Dawda’s trust but from what I gathered in your deposition at the TRRC, if you were a trustworthy person before nothing what you exhibited in your character now qualifies to be accepted as one.

Now talking about Vice President Sahou Sabally, you testified that he plotted a coup to overthrow Sir Dawda’s government based from a dubious intelligence gathered by two people who have been long dead: the late Samba Bah and the late Daba Marena, may their souls rest in peace. We now know how it is becoming habitual for pathological liars at the TRRC exhibiting dead people for alibi? You couldn’t be different from those crooks. Did you listened to Mamat Cham, Abou Jeng, Binneh Minteh to name a few, whose depositions left many Gambians still scratching their heads  over whether the spirit of the TRRC has not already been compromised by these losers?

Realistically speaking, from what every Gambian fair to him understood about Vice President Sabally, was that his sincerity and devotion to Sir Dawda was unquestionable. His enemies hated him specifically for that, especially for the active role he played in changing the ex-president’s mind when he wanted to quit office in 1992. His enemies and rivals castigated him for mobilizing thirty-five Gambian Imams and many “YaiCompins” to come to the state house who successfully pleaded with Sir Dawda not to leave. Someone planning to overthrow a government will not treat the leader of that government with that kind of respect and love. I was never close to Mr. Sabally then or now, but from my assessment of his personality I find nothing remotely resembling treachery in his DNA. Yes, the power struggle was there among the PPP leadership contenders where he ostensibly demonstrated better skills in politics than most of his competitors. And they hated him for that. You just appear to be one of his haters.

Momodou Lamin since you had claimed at the TRRC to have had the wherewithal to take charge of the president’s affairs when necessitated by special circumstances, compelling you to do so on July 22, 1994, did you, as serious as that conspiracy by his VP to topple his government was, alerted him about it at all? I don’t think so. Please stop the nonsense if you guys don’t have anything good to talk about innocent people.

Mister-take-charge-when-demanded-by circumstances, why didn’t you inform Sir Dawda about the message you said originated from “Kabba Bajo” before you left England with him on July 21 1994 that the GNA soldiers were planning a demonstration but that the situation was under control? Hope you were not lying about that also? If not, you could have taken charge there and warn him about it before landing? In fact, what better situation was presented to you to discusse it with him than when you landed and found out many thing being rather abnormal?

I also know that you never bothered to tell him that you and I had tried everything we could before your departure but without success to solve the major problem of the two Nigerian commanders disputing over who should stay and who should go until they both abandoned the command seat creating the conducive vacuum exploited by the soldiers to overthrow his government. If Sir Dawda was informed about it he sure would not have left the country. Were you afraid of being denied your one month of per diem for the roofing of your house that you were so obsessed with? General Dada had however felt that his contract to come to the Gambia was signed by Sir Dawda and General Babangida and wouldn’t leave the country until the Gambian president told him so. But you went to the TRRC and painted a different  picture of what exactly transpired.

Momodou Lamin, you just don’t want to admit it but I now believe that your integrity was compromised by your tactics to use the loopholes in the president’s office to unfairly benefit yourself and yourself alone. The late Lt. Momodou Lamin Camara (RIP) was the first ADC to Sir Dawda and was so close to him that nobody thought he would ever leave that position. But when it was his time the army got him back to the barracks. Major Dennis Coker, Captain James Johnson, Captain Sam Gibba and Major Lie Conteh were all there and served within the term limit of two years or less.

What a shame therefore to believe that you were so perfect and indispensable that Sir Dawda had to handpick you out of all the ADC officers before to become his permanent ADC for the rest of his presidency. The Sir Dawda we know was not the one to idolize a civil servant which you were to the extent of demanding from the army command that kind of appointment for you.

Since your utterance of that statement, I have been consulting every GNA officer who was in active service to tell me when or how your appointment as permanent ADC came about. And guess what? I am yet to hear one person confirming that BS. I hope you will be able to respond by either telling me where the evidence of that decree could be located or at least show me the letter or paper trail to validate that assertion. It wouldn’t surprise me if you tell me that it was all an executive injunction from the maestros purely verbal.

What some of those officer at the army headquarters told me so far was that they one morning received  an executive order from the president’s officer in a letter signed by Permanent Secretary Bensouda dictating General Dada to promote you from the rank of a lieutenant to that of a captain based on nothing militarily justifiable. And when Dada turned it down, a second letter from Secretary General Sarah Janha  followed and did it with an ultimatum see the pips on your shoulders sooner rather than later.

And with all that said, it was the Banjul officers whose values were bastardized for being favored by the system.

Finally Momodou Lamin, if you were, while in the corridor power, not entirely devoted to lobbying for the position of a permanent ADC coupled or cajoling the authorities to twist the arms of the Nigerian command for your undeserved promotion and take time off to school yourself on America’s government stratagem both in their congress and senate, you would have realized the  impossibility of their troops in the USS Lamour County to intervene in the internal affairs of a foreign country even if their national interest was at stake let alone when there was nothing particularly appetizing to them about Gambia. The ignorance you still show in blaming them for not intervening, further demonstrated that for the past twenty-five years you still lived by the same ignorance. You could have at last familiarized yourself with that knowledge before appearing at the TRRC to protect your intellect.

All that demonstration of force by the Americans with the tanks you saw was meant to buy time. Their Ambassador Andrew Winters was busy with the AFPRC leaders trying to hatch a deal that will allow President Jawara to be brought back on the conditionality of limiting his authority but to ensure that six months later the junta handed over power back to civilian rule based on a free and fair election. He wanted them to emulate what had happened in Mali where the military seized power from a decadent government and within six months returned the country to civilian rule. That was a coup seen by the world as a good coup.

Your generalization of all coups being bad is subjective and not a gospel truth. Ask the Egyptians about General Abdel Fattah el Sisi and how they appreciated his coup of the Muslim Brotherhood’s government of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 by popular demand from the Egyptian population.

The so called democratic world powers are now prevailing on the military in Venezuela to overthrow the current government of President Nicolas Maduro.It looks like it will eventually happen and be accepted as a good coup, wouldn’t it be?

The closest foreign military intervention we had had in 1994 was the intelligence received from Senegal that they were amassing their troops on the Gambian borders preparing to roll in. Although Captain Mamat Cham explained to the TRRC what happened differently, it was true that he and I went to the residence of the Senegalese ambassador then Mr. Kebbeh to plead with him not to allow the intervention. His understanding of the situation was that the soldiers without their officers were the ones who seized power and were running around destroying every part of the country. We told him that we were part of it and to satisfy his curiosity he could send any one of his aides with us that night to take a look at the orderliness in the streets. He agreed and we took a tour with one of his officers to the important areas within Bakau, SereKunda and Banjul to the satisfaction of the man before we went back to get the understanding of Mr. Kebbeh. He called President Abdou Joof that night for the Senegalese troops to withdraw to their original positions. That was Saturday night, July 23 1994.

He then gave us the telephone number of President Abdou Joof to give to Chairman Jammeh but to wait for his message the next morning before calling Dakar to talk to Joof.

I was there when Jammeh called Joof on Sunday, July 24, 1994 around 1:00 pm and spoke to him  at length about how Senegal should from now on consider the Gambia government friendlier than that of the PPP’s.  Joof in the end assured him his government’s position of not interfering in the Gambia’s internal affairs. He asked to be excused for providing sanctuary for Jawara on humanitarian grounds. He promised not to allow Jawara to engage in any subversive activities in his country aimed at the Gambia.

That coincided with the failure of the American initiative for the junta to bring back Jawara that was made clear to Sir Dawda by Edward Singhateh in a telephone call arranged by Mr. Andrew Winters.

That’s when the ship started its final journey to dump her human cargo to Senegal.

Like many important matters he could have clarified in his book but did not, typical among them being what he exactly meant when you said that the journalist in England upon his arrival from Senegal six weeks later asked him whether it was because of the failure of the confederation that Senegal was unwilling to help him again like they did in 1981 and he vaguely replied that he had to protect the interest of his country. In his book he never said that. All he said was that out of the blue the Senegalese commander at the State House in charge of his entire security came to him and said that they were immediately departing from the country. That President Abdou Joof never bothered to formally notify him about the sudden withdrawal of their forces. They were not only protecting his most important interest, his personal security and that of his entire country depended on them.

Momodou Lamin, you have to realize that this is not a time for clowning around or shedding crocodile tears to solicit sympathy.

What was all about that emotional pretense about soldiers being killed?  Did you at all ever inform Sir Dawda Jawara that the soldiers he had sent to Liberia were denied their god-given right to be buried in their home country, The Gambia, when killed in the line of action?

You guys had built a buffer around Sir Dawda with restricted channels of accessing him except for a selected few conversant with how to tell him what he only wanted to hear even if it was to be fabricated compounded by a strict prohibition not to dampen his mood even if it meant hiding him the truth.

Sir Dawda must have thanked God, for finally seeing his salvation more in reconciling with President Jammeh than trying to live in a dream world that had almost rendered him homeless in the cold streets of London.

You may be another armored gladiator sent to test my cogency; but hey, be rest assured that I am better prepared for renegades like you, faithless and manipulative.

Samsudeen Sarr

Banjul,

The Gambia.

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