July 1994 Coup (Part 2): A Plot to Arrest President Jawara at Gun-point

Uprooting a democratically elected leadership via an illegality has its ramifications. For it not only involved usurping and curtailing people’s power but also disregard of rights and plotters forceful imposition of themselves against the masses wishes.

Intimidation, abuses are the other vices characterized with military rule. However, some soldiers decided it was best Gambia took that lane in a trajectory turning cause of the nation forever.

The day was 22nd , the month July and the year 1994 –an event ever to be remembered in the annals of history.

Insubordination was one of litany of reasons leading soldiers to take up rifles and head to Banjul to chop off the giant iroko tree firmly planted at State House the last three decades.

This show of rowdiness, towards Gambia’s personnel, was the making of Nigerian soldiers, brought in to re-define or upgrade the nation’s army to acceptable standards. It was general belief of Gambian officers that the visitors from Lagos have outlived their welcome. However, there was no way of pursuing the Nigerians out without riding of the government who rubberstamped their presence in the first place.

This led an army of second lieutenants to hatch an audacious scheme to terminate the Jawara leadership. Spurring this further perhaps was soldiers from the barracks felt ostracised in the government’s development endeavours. From making do with rotten food on daily basis, contending with starvation salaries to poor toilets to the extent the men in camouflage used the beach as defecation ground, all contributed to the cause for the takeover.

Led by Sana B Sabally, Edward Singhatey, Sadibou Hydara and Yaya Jammeh, the takeover was second for the plotters with removal of the Nigerian soldiers, who came here under the Natac, topping the mutineers’ priority list. Gambian officers were by this time disgruntled and embarrassed at the slightest mistake by their Nigerian supremos who, we heard in previous testimonies, overlooked their hosts. Sheikh Omar Faye –Adama Barrow’s current minister of defense –, one of few high profile Gambians in the army, was humiliated by a Nigerian major who were merely assigned to shape up Gambian soldiers but ended up hijacking all portfolios.

Edward Singhatey was appointed the battle planner and got to work, carefully sketching details of how they could launch the much talked about coup.

In Sana B. Sabally’s TRRC  narration, the scheme to oust Jawara was mapped out in three stages; Having the then leader apprehended at his garden where he was almost every Thursday tending to his crops with the help of women gardeners. It was agreed Jawara would be seized there when he sure would have had very few guards around him and off he would be upstaged. The second part was waging a war by rounded off civilians holding them as a hostages or human seals and asking the government step aside, raise the flag so the United Nations can begin to negotiate. Theatrical as this might sound, it was at one stage a considered option before plan to launch a surprise arrest on Juwara at gun-point at the airport during the president tour of the guard of honour gained prominence among the eventual July 22nd coup-makers.

**Check Part 3 for more ***

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