The erstwhile junta former Vice Chairman Sanna Bairo Sabally has not only admitted having coordinated the mass killing of the November 11th 1994 coupists, he also told the TRRC that he had participated in the killing of the former army officers, FREEDOM NEWSPAPER CAN REPORT. Sabally faced the TRRC on Wednesday, where he made disturbing revelations about the role he had played in suppressing the November 11th failed coup.
Sabally says prior to the operation to quell the coup, he had asked the soldiers, who were ready to fight with the council to join him and those who wanted to fight for The Gambian state to stand aside. He says he was joined by soldiers and council members to confront the suspected coupists. Former Junta Defense Minister Edward Singhateh and Local Government Minister Yankuba Touray, were among the junta officials, who had accompanied Sabally in that operation.
“I addressed the men, who were there that we are going to attack an unknown enemy. We also do not know whether they have any external support, which qualify them as an unknown enemy, The Yundum barracks armories were broken into and live ammunitions were taken. I said now, we had a situation in hand; we cannot wait for the enemy to come and attack us in our house; we have to meet them where they are,” Sabally testified.
Sabally had served as junta Vice Chairman from July 22nd, 1994 to January of 1995. He parted company with Jammeh after he and the late Interior Minister Sadibu Hydara were accused of plotting to overthrow the regime. Hydara later died in jail, while Sabally got released after serving nine years behind bars.
During his short stint with the junta, Sabally had been accused of torture and killing of military detainees. He had launched an appeal through the TRRC by asking his victims to forgive him.
Sabally also says when Jammeh wanted to join him to quell the November 11 coup, he told Jammeh to stay at the State House and help steer the affairs of the State.
“I said we are going to attack; we might not come back; at this particular point in time Jammeh said he is also going to go with us; I said no, you are not going to go; you stay behind and hold the rear; in case we are captured or we are dead; you continue the mission and eventually he accepted to stay behind,” Sabally told the commission.
Essa Faal is the Lead Counsel for Gambia’s TRRC. Faal told Sabally that he was responsible for the massacre of some army officers, who were arrested in connection with the November 11th failed coup. He also put it to Sabally that he and his former junta council colleagues were responsible for the murder of the six army officers, who were executed by the regime. Faal says Sabally and co had broken Gambian law by killing the six officers without availing them the right to fair hearing.
Sabally has never denied his involvement in the murder of the executed officers. He admitted responsibility and asked his victims to forgive him. He had apologized to Ebrima Chongan, the former DIG of police, RSM Baboucarr Jeng, Gen. Mamat Cham and other officers he had wronged while in office.
Sabally tells the TRRC that the alleged coupists had planned to execute all the council members and their families. He also says during war situation; the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply in the case of the captured officers.
Sabally’s statement had attracted the attention of the Chairman of the commission Dr. Lamin Cise, a former United Nations official. Dr. Cise told him that his statement was not only inappropriate, but out of line. Ceesay says he was shocked to hear such a misguided statement from Sabally.
Dr. Cise remarked that Sabally’s statement could send wrong signals to others. He warns that such statements could only affect the integrity of the TRRC.
Ceesay says the Geneva Convention had required nations to respect the rights of prisoners of war, but Sabally was still adamant on his position. Sabally contends that during war situation, it is not possible for soldiers to observe the Geneva Convention. He cites Afghanistan, where he says, the US soldiers had been allegedly committing war crimes.
Sabally also claims that he is a victim of the former military regime he had served. He says he was tortured while in jail. He also claimed that his life was attempted shortly after he was released from prison. He had to leave the country for neighboring Senegal, before travelling to Germany.
In his testimony, Sabally, also apologized to a lady, who was shot by his bodyguards prior to his arrest and subsequent firing from the junta. The lady told the TRRC that she could only forgive Sabally, on condition that he (Sabally) is willing to provide monetary compensation to her. She says her life had never been the same, since she was shot by Sabally’s guards.
Lead Counsel Faal told her that she needs to meet with the TRRC Counselling staff if she needs medical help. He also told her that the issue of reparations would be taken care of after the TRRC had finish its work.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai