He was painted a murderer and still is even after his moving story. Majority Gambians were overwhelmed after news leaked that Sana B Sabally has offered to jet down in Banjul and tell his version of events.
Several testimonies -some of them fanciful -were made against the former Junta vice-president including how he oversaw the execution of the November 11 coupists at the Fajara Barracks and Brikama Nyambai Forest.
Even his orderlies threw him under the bus, endeavouring to take only a paltry of faults, hiding behind the cover of being “junior officers”.
Of all the tales told about the 1994 coup d’etate that saw Jammeh installed as chairman by default of his senior personnel tagging – has been Sait Darboe’s rather hilarious gun-pointing narrative on how appointments of the junta hierarchy were made.
Clad in a colourful “grand mbobo” in his first sitting before the truth commission uncovering 22 years of rights abuses under Jammeh’s reign, viewership of Sabally’s televised session garnered compelling numbers across channels airing it. Such was the interest of Gambians in what he had to say.
Typical of the chronology of the narrative formula at the TRRC, proceedings started with situations that obtained in the army with widespread corruption dogging the late Jawara’s regime which Sabally blamed as being the principal reason for the 1994 coup and removal of the Nigerian soldiers whom Gambian soldiers saw as stumbling blocks considering they occupied all military administrative key portfolios.
He told of the actors in the preparations of the takeover which initially included MTO Basiru Barrow who would later opt out protesting Yahya Jammeh’s involvement whom he described as being a “kufang mo” and a loud mouth. Ndure Cham was another deserter who was the most senior man and could have been leader had he not backed out three days before launching of the coup.
Information leaked of a coup in-the-making like wildfire but authorities were lacklustre about curtailing it even after Basiru Barrow had betrayed the coup-makers and spewed out their intentions at the military headquarters to major colonel Saluk.
In Sana’s narrative, he was summoned and immediately ask to transfer to Farafenni where fellow plotter Yankuba Touray as posted. He would heed the instruction but returned almost immediately. The coup was cooked out in three phases; first to arrest then president Dawda Jawara at his garden which was later ruled out, hold up the airport Hollywood movie style and contain Jawara’s entourage to arrive from a travel abroad during which Edward Singhateh and Yaya Jammeh would effect the country’s leader’s arrest at gun-point.
The last stage was to arrest civilians, use them as human seals and hold up the UN flag for negotiation – a plan they also ditched. Singhatey and Jammeh on Thursday July 21st were contained and arrested at the airport as Sabally who had broken into the Yundum armoury and taken out heavy weapons stood waiting.
Jammeh and Singhatey were somehow let go amid their looming arrest.
On night of the same day, Sabablly had phoned the aforesaid duo including Sadibou Hydara insisting there is no turning back on account he had heavy arsenals lined up for the coup and cannot return them. Edu and Jammeh commandeered taxis to arrive in the Yundum camp in the wee hours of Thursday going to the following Friday morning.
The quartet were sabotaged by Basiru Barrow, in Sana’s explanation, with all military vehicles locked via the steering wheel to prevent their use for locomotion.
In the early morning of that fateful Friday, the mutineers had stripped reluctant soldiers of their AK47s and arrested them while arming those who sympathised with their coup cause. In no time, the mutineers commandeered government vehicles and sped towards final implementation of their takeover intentions comprising incapacitating communication cables, attacking and controlling the Fajara Barracks, gaining control of the Sarro Bridge and finally the State House where at this stage president Jawara had fled through the Banjul waters and on his way to Senegal for his safety.
Sabally, Sadibou Hydara and some soldiers besieged Fajara Barracks, replaced the sentries under Warrant Officer Abdoulie Dot Faal’s supervision while they sped towards the Banju bridge where they were told Edward, Yaya Jammeh and crew were negotiating with the likes of Alagie Martins previously loyal to the Jawara rule before swapping sides. The talks yielded on account the mutineers’ heavy weapons were no match to the AK47s of the loyalists. Negotiations also ensued between the presidential guards under Lang Tombong Tamba’s purview and the mutineers who had surrounded the palace. Jubilation followed as the coupists succeeded in their leapfrogging of the Jawara regime in an undertaking changing annals of Gambia’s history forever.
Arrests of security supremos notably Mamat Cham and Chongan marked early days of Jammeh’s rule amid whirling rumours of a counter-coup until in November 11 when the worst atrocity engulfed the nation between junta members and soldiers of the Gambian army.
Basiru Barrow who betrayed the 1994 Junta along with Abdoulie Dot Faal were plotting to uproot the status quo on the premise the council have not honoured their word -to alleviate soldiers’ welfare.
Soldiers from both the Yundum and Fajara Barracks were involved on the night of November 10th going to 11.
By this time, the calibre of Kanilai Junior (Buba Jammeh) and Alieu Jallow had already leaked to the council of an ongoing disturbance in which live ammunition were taken masterminded by Barrow and Dot Faal and dozen other soldiers. Council members with the exception of Jammeh, stormed the Yumdum Barracks in a surprise diamond formation onslaught with Sana and crew staying at the back as Edward and his team raided the place followed by the rest where they found sentry Ebrima Beyai dozing off at the guardroom.
At the guardroom, couple Alagie Kebbeh stationed at the airport, phoned Beyai before Binneh Minteh’s call from the Fajara Barracks came in on the intercom. Prior to this, Sabally had called Jammeh informing him of their “successful takeover” of the camp.
Binneh’s enquiry over Lieutenant Barrow’s whereabouts laid bare the mutineers plans as the Junta personnel locked up Beyai in the cells before laying an ambush on an unsuspecting Lt Barrow and co who were driven into the camp by Mafugi Sonko at around 2:00 am.
In Sonko’s narration, their vehicle was sprayed with bullets as LF Jammeh escaped on hot pursuit by Peter Singhatey and team. This portion of firing wasn’t mentioned by Sana who just said Basiru Barrow and team were “arrested and beaten by our guards.”
However, fast forward to what ensued next, a map pocket was found in Lt Barrow’s map pocket in Sana’s story allegedly detailing the planned apprehension and execution of Junta members and Gambia’s first army commander Baboucarr Jatta at the Brikama firing range.
In Sabally’s narration, this discovery “changed the situation totally” shifting the junta’s original plan from just “crushing” the rebellion to eventual murder in cold blood of the mutineers.
Basiru Barrow and co were stripped to their knickers and locked up at the mile II central prisons on that same night as council members sped to state house to discuss fate of the mutineers.
Yahya Jammeh at this stage is strongly reported to have uttered the popular sentence “take no prisoners” to Sabally who went ahead to move the state prisoners on board trucks to the Fajara Barracks on the same night for immediate execution, in the then vice-chairperson’s own words “we remove head of the snake and the body was useless” , translating as killing Barrow and Dot Faal.
“I stood the soldiers and told them “we have to kill Barrow and Dot Faal” they were the ring leaders. Here we were concerned only for the ring leaders for the main time. They (Barrow and Dot Faal) were killed and I initiated the shooting,” Sana told the TRRC commissioners on this day last year.
Mafugi Sonko -the lone survivor of the November 11 attack – claimed Barrow and Faal were secluded and first shot at by Edward Singhatey before others followed with shooting -a thing Sana flatly refuted, calling it “totally false.”
“I initiated the shooting,” Sana said.
In Mafugi’s account, Barrow died on the spot while Dot Faal breathed heavily battling pangs of death. The shooting, the nation is told, only ceased when Lamin Jarju and Alieu Bah of the November 11 mutineers escaped on hot pursuit from Baboucarr Njie Ponkal and Tumbul Tamba (now late).
In a subsequent interview following his TRRC debut, Mafugi revealed he was crying at this moment, desperately pleading for his life to be spared.
The remaining soldiers were later removed from the cells and executed into Brikama Forest the following day
*******This story is not told to glorify Sana Sabally rather to keep track of dates and events. We will continue tomorrow with his torture**********