25 YEARS LATER: True Story of What Led to the 1994 Coup D’état (Part1)

Late former president Dawda Jawara’s regime lasted for three decades.

Jawara was extolled for leading Gambia to political independence up until the five years before the 1994 coup. Before then, Gambia experienced its first takeover albeit temporarily in 1981 when Kukoie Samba Sanyang and his aficionados toppled Jawara and forced him into exile.

However, to the latter’s utter relief, Kukoie who died few years ago, was chased out of the palace having come under siege from foreign forces.

13 years on, the second coup will follow. Before then Jawara had tried quitting power by resignation but was talked out of it until in 1994 when a group of mostly second lieutenants seized the mantle of leadership in bloodless coup.

Revealing what precipitated toppling of the democratically elected government, it occurred soldiers were disgruntled at their treatment in their camps. From bad diet –water,water chew wet or dry – to poor hygiene and low income, the other reason for the takeover was the free range the government gave to the Nigerian officers tasked to shape up Gambia’s army. Coming under the protocol agreement of Natac, the Nigerians should have been drilling Gambians but ended up occupying key positions in the army reserved for Gambian personnel. Rubbing salted water to a split wound, according to various accounts, the Nigerians looked down upon Gambians. Idea of making for the Jawara government was stirred up by Sanna Sabally who inspired by a satirical programme on the BBC then felt the story he heard resonated with Gambia’s predicament more so the sorry plight with which soldiers were made to contend with. Before this, Sana’s father had died and he had tried receiving his pension but was told he would have to dole out bribes to those responsible –a suggestion he felt was insulting, showing, in his mind, the depths of corruption under the prevailing regime then.

There was discontentment among soldiers who no longer had faith in the government especially after their rafts of attempts to “see” the government proved vain.

Sana B. Sabally, shared his idea of staging a coup with Edward then an original member of the coup, a proposal Singhatey, then 25 years-old and an infantry soldier, consented to. Small talks in bid to get on board more participants teed off. Soon there were some numbers considered the original five members of July 22nd Coup namely Alagie Kanteh, Lt Alpha Kinteh, Lt Sana B Sabally, Lt Edward Singhatey, Lt captain Basirou Barrow.

Later, the group would meet at some lime tree adjacent the Yundum camp near an agricultural installation where they met because they couldn’t entertain treasonous talk in the barracks, a crime constituting an illegality.

Military intelligence were set against the group to keep tabs on them as reports of a cooking coup went viral. Midway some aforementioned soldiers buckling under pressure decided to withdraw namely Alpha Kinteh and Alagie Kanteh. The other three continued.

Aware they’re unable to launch a coup with just three members, Edward approached Yaya Jammeh about their plans.

However, Barrow was strongly opposed to the idea and dismissively said to Edward: “Ndoke Nying ma fanglong”. He is the type that would claim he can hold LMG on both shoulders.”

Funnily, Jammeh confirmed Barrow’s comment and said to Edward, “I will hold one LMG on both shoulders and take State House,” a laughable remark considered sheer exaggeration.

Edward had gone ahead and spoken to Jammeh despite Barrow’s initial opposition. Jammeh was brought on board owing to his inside knowledge of the presidential palace having previously worked there as a guard which the coup plotters felt will be crucial in their scheme. Barrow opted out immediately coinciding with the leaking of the plans.

The soldiers required the buy-in of their colleagues and Edward used his influence as an only platoon commander to get others on board who trusted him. Slowly, he finally managed to get the endorsement of the Alpha company. Sana Sabally was a weapons commander but without troops and roamed the barracks before he was allocated a small portion as an office.

Yankuba Touray entered the fray at this stage when he passed by the Yundum Barracks upon collecting paychecks of soldiers in Farafenni and had met Edward. Farafenni was far and any a coup being launched in Banjul could precipitate soldiers from the Farafenni Barracks to counter. So Yankuba was detailed to fend off anything of that sort happening given he was based there. This was Yankuba’s sole participation in lead up to the overthrow.

Sadibou Hydara also joined having been persuaded by Sana Sabally but detailed plans of the coup wasn’t laid out to him. The idea was, Sana, Edward, Jammeh had feared they would be detained even before they launched their coup during which and Sadibou would then lead the soldiers to free them and continue with the takeover. Major Abdoulie Conteh’s opinion was sounded at this stage around the field of Yundum about performance of the Jawara government which he gave the thumbs-down to but ruled out a coup ever happening. Ndure Cham, was talked into the coup by Jammeh but was panicky during the meetings. When one of the meetings was held in Jammeh’s house, Ndure came in hastily wearing his T-shirt inside out and had his slippers on the wrong feet.

***Check out the part two***

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