The former Vice Chairman of Gambia’s military junta Edward Singhateh today began giving evidence at the country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Singhateh was the main planner of the 1994 coup, which toppled President Jawara’s thirty years democratic rule. He had given evidence on the circumstances and reasons that warranted the coup. He cited what he calls the lack of adequate healthcare system, education and transparent government prior to the coup. He also says the welfare of the soldiers were neglected by the Jawara government.
Singhateh’s testimony also focused on the arrest of top army officers and former PPP Ministers, who were tortured while in state custody. He accepted responsibility for the torture of some of the detained officers. He also admitted that some of the officers detained illegally.
Singhateh has apologized to Mamat Cham, Ebrima Chogan, Baboucarr Jeng, and others he had violated their rights and liberties as a former security detainees. He admitted that mistreatment meted out to Cham, Chongan and Jeng was inhumane.
He adduced in evidence that he cannot run away from responsibility—given his past role in the former military council, in which he served as Defense Minister and Vice Chairman.
Given an account about what occasioned the 1994 coup, Singhateh said they were not happy the former PPP government was presiding over the affairs of the nation at the time. He cited rampant corruption in the past regime, nepotism among others to back up his statement. He added that the decision to overthrow the PPP government was conceived by him, Sanna Sabally, Alpha Kanteh, Basiru Barrow and others. He added that when he recommended to include Yahya Jammeh on the list of the organizers of the coup, the late Basiru Barrow was opposed to it. He says Barrow was flatly opposed to Jammeh joining them.
Singhateh said Barrow later withdrew from the coup plotters. Notwithstanding, that never stopped them from executing the plot to topple Jawara’s regime.
Singhateh said he was the one, who drafted the operational plan of the coup. He said during their movements towards Banjul to seize the State House and other outlets, a panic stricken Jammeh wanted to back-out from the operation. He says Jammeh was afraid and he told him (Singhateh) that he wanted to opt out from the operation.
Singhateh never allowed Jammeh to leave. He said he grabbed Jammeh and placed him in a truck, in which Jammeh was flanked by two soldiers to prevent him from abandoning his men behind.
Singhateh wouldn’t brand Jammeh was a coward, but he told the Commission that Jammeh, who believes in carrying “jujus” was scared that the 1994 coup was going to fail.
Singhateh had commented on the events leading to the quelling of the November 11th, 1994 counter coup. He said they were given orders by Jammeh not take any prisoners. In other words, Jammeh’s orders were for captured soldiers and officers to be executed.
Singhateh says the former junta Vice Chairman Sanna Sabally led the group that attacked the Yundum barracks. He added that Sabally was given orders to kill captured soldiers and officers. Singhateh was part of that operation to quell the coup.
Singhateh will resume his testimony at the TRRC tomorrow.