July 1994 (Part3): The Arrest of Yaya Jammeh and Edward Singhatey as Sana B Sabally Mounted Blockage at the Airport with a Machine Gun

This would be July 21st 1994. Three days prior Sana Sabally was transferred to Farafenni by colonel Akogy after being called to the headquarters.

It turned out Lt Basirou Barrow –motor transport Officer of Yundum Barracks –had leaked to the Nigerians of a coup in the making. In Sana’s narrative, he was seated with Barrow and some officers when the phone rang. Barrow had told him Sana “It’s your call” without getting to the phone first. Sana asked “how do you know?” It turned out it was Sana’s immediate commander who’d summoned him. Basirou Barrow offered to drive him to the destination. Sana soon began getting suspicious when Barrow walked closely behind upon arriving at the army headquarters and he too steadied his hand on his side rifle.

“I was ready for anything to kill and die,” he told Gambians last April in his debut TRRC sitting as he explained how Barrow-onetime member of the plot  betrayed their cause – escorted him to Colonel Awdo’s office.

The Nigerian army chief ordered Sana be transferred immediate to Farafenni telling him “make sure the last ferry doesn’t leave you behind”. Sana heeded joining the commander then to Farafenni but returned on the same day on the excuse he has not notified his family of his transfer which was considered genuine and accepted by major Saluke. And off he returned Yundum but was placed under close surveillance. On this particular day, president Jawara was expected to touch down from a visit overseas.

By sheer negligence on the part of those who knew what was cooking and Sana’s intentions, the Kassa Kunda-born returned to the camp to join fellow plotters in implementing their plans to arrest Jawara at the airport. He would pick out rifles from the armoury back and forth and mounted a checkpoint around the airport junction.

At the airport parade, the plotters Jammeh and Edward were searched and disarmed and had no guns with which to execute their plan. During this moment there were rife reports the Nigerians were in approval of the coup plot which was repudiated by the Yundum Barracks soldiers. Sana Sabally was expecting a call which never came from Edward to begin his operation after mounting a blockade at the airport junction. Upon learning the fail coup failed, a vexed Sana convened for a meeting immediately which Edward, Jammeh and Saidbou Hydara were the sole attendants.

The soldiers were inexplicably let go amid reports of their looming arrest and possible prosecution as panic set in. Edward revealed a state agent from the NSS (National Security Service), was dispatched at his home and he spotted this because of the man’s suspicious intermittent peeping. Edward would quickly dash in and out of his home having changed clothing before hopping into a vehicle for Serrekunda prior to alighting close to the junction leading to the Banjul hospital and scampering down to a nearby small kiosk while waiting to see if he was being tailed still. Next, he headed to the Bakau garage where he waited until the last van filled up and joined in quickly just to make sure the next vehicle wasn’t following anytime soon. At start of the evening, Edward went to visit Jammeh at his home in Bakau where he found sergeant Ebrima Bah who was a company major and also an NCO. A heated argument ensued between Jammeh and Bah who was pessimistic about success of the plot to an extent Edward had to come between them avoid a possible brawl.

By this time there was a US marine vessel, by coincidence, landing at the beach supposed to conduct drills with Gambian soldiers.

Soldiers who were in favour of the coup were during this moment waiting on the next moves of their senior plotters. It was going into late night before July 22nd.

Edward would later head home but hours later Jammeh turned up at his residence shouting his name and throwing stones on the roof to wake him up.

“My mum said somebody is shouting your name. I came out. Jammeh told me to dress up and come out. He told me Sana B. Sabally had broken into one of the amouries at Yundum Barracks and that the coup was on. So the coup was launched by Lieutenant Sana Sabally,” Edward said at his TRRC testimony. The pair sped to Yundum Barracks where they found soldiers from various companies waiting for what happens next. Soon the coup plotters began giving soldiers guns, LMGs, general purpose machine guns. In came the need to break into the main armoury as demands for guns by excited soldiers soared. Keys of the armoury was being searched leading to one soldier breaking into the adjutant’s office Omar Mbye. The time was between 6-7:oo am of July 22nd. The coup plotters knocked on Mbye’s office and he opened and they detained him at the guardroom.

An order was passed by the would-be junta for soldiers not part of the coup be temporarily detained until the coast was clear to avoid infighting and bloodshed among themselves.

Sabotage began to surface as the barracks vehicle were locked by the wheel and emptied of gasoline or fuel purportedly by Baisrou Barrow who was the Motor Transport Officer.

Sheriff Gomez had wanted to join amid the commotion but Edward wasn’t buying it. In Sheriff’s explanation, Edward fired a shot just above his head outside the guardroom in an intimidation attempt–an account Edward denied saying the short was released in the ceiling of the guardroom.

****Check Part 4 for more details*****

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