Mutiny In Gambia!! Former Army Lieutenant Kejau Touray Breaks the silence!!
“On the morning of 22 July 1994, I was on leave that day and was awaken by shouting all over Fajara Barracks, “cowards, they all ran away!”. I knew that something serious was wrong. I was told that it was a coup and that Yaya Jammeh and some officers were disarmed at the airport as they planned to escort the President to the barracks, after the Guard of Honour the previous night. My contention with all those in authority was why those mutineers were not immediately under custody. They had planned to arrest them the next morning I learnt. Edward Singhateh reported spent that night crying, being consoled that they will go on and take over the government before the planned arrest. Yaya Jammeh had been in the army less than a year and was not known to the soldiers of GNA. He relied on Edward Singhateh for men, as his own unit refused to follow him into unlawful takeover and most paid for it dearly after the takeover. The insurrectionists were ready early in the morning, with most other GNA officers either oblivious of the coup or part of it. The rest were immediately arrested and incarcerated to Mile 2 Prisons, including Gendarmerie and some police officers.” said Former Army Lieutenant Kejau Touray.

By Kejau Touray, UKOn the 22 July 1994, The Gambia Army took over the government off PPP, which has been in power since independence. This former British colony of barely a million people, has had the army for only a decade. The experience in the Armed Forces before, during and after the regime change that brought in one of the most brutal regimes in our sub region, will be discussed in these postings.

Following the attempted coup of 1981, The Gambia government, rescued by the Senegalese Armed Forces, legislated The Gambia Armed Act 1984, establishing the armed forces, comprising the Gambia Army and the Gendarmerie, with the British Army Training Team (BATT) and the Senegalese Gendarmerie training the two arms of the service, respectively. The Gambia Armed Force was then arguably one of the most well trained force in the sub region, with officers and men being trained in military academies all over the world. This remains the status quo even after the dissolve of the Senegambian Confederation with the Turkish Gendarmerie Training Team filled the vacuum when the Senegalese left abruptly.

I joined the Gendarmerie in 1991, after leaving my teaching post at Brikama Secondary School (Alpha Khan). During my intial 9 months training, the Armed Forces personnel, came from Liberia as part of the ECOMOG peacekeepers and were illegally demonstrating for the pays they were promised. We were deployed at Denton Bridge to stop them, there I witnessed the arrogance and the ill discipline of the then Presidential Guards, who were better paid, with basic allowance equal to my full pay then. Unhelpful was the fact the army personnel thought that that allowance was paid to the all Gendarme personnel and not to them. I remember Lt. Yaya Jammeh used to sling at least three weapons; a pistol and two rifles and be bragging that the whole army could not disarm him mocking Lt. Dibba who was disarmed by the rebel soldiers. Rumour had it that he used to sling grenades on and always dressed in battle dress at the state house, hence he was moved to the military police. A very sharp Turkish instructor used to warn us about Yaya Jammeh and we should always watch that officer! Then Col. Pa Sallah S Jagne was head of Gendarmerie and Col. Ndow Njie, the army commander.

I left for Turkey for a two-year course, in our last month of initial training. Before we came back, the BATT were given matching orders unceremoniously to be replaced by the Nigerians, not as a training team but as commanders, staff officers and serving officers and men. The British reportedly burnt all the essentials pamphlets, training materials etc. Col. Ndow Njie retired and was replaced by Maj. Maba Jobe, who resigned his commission in protest.

I could not believe the government facilitated non-Gambians to not only enlist in but much more command our only armed force. This was not only illegal under the GAFA 1984, but also very dangerous. It may inadvertent result of an overall increase in the technical assistance the Nigerian government. This decisive policy may be an result of an increase in Nigerian technical assistance generally to the Gambia government, from the judges, teachers and medical doctors, however coupled with the mockeries by the Nigerians, it arguably armed the coup leaders like 2 Lt. Edward Singhateh and others to persuade the disgruntled army into a coup.

It is important to note that the Nigerian introduced and enhanced administration and introduced the Terms and Conditions of Service, TACOS, which greatly improved the pay and allowance of the army. The ration that is given to the personnel, and often pilfered, is now taken in cash as ration allowance and housing rent was also paid. The soldiers pay and allowances were enhanced greatly under their new foreign command.

The Gendarmerie was later transformed into the TSG, the Tactical Support of The Gambia Police, with the officers given choices and the entire Military Police (then part of Gendarmerie) transferred to the army. Lt. Yaya Jammeh, then officer commanding Military Police, Lt. Sadibu Hydara and Lt. Marong opted for the Army and the rest of the Gendarmerie were left to be police officers without an option. Worst still the army, lead by Nigerians emptied the Fajara Barracks Armoury off all heavy arms in broad daylight and when some people complaint about concentration of heavy arms in one barracks, they were told that police do not need heavy arms.

Interestingly, Col. Pa Sallah Jagne became IGP, and some officers, notably Maj. Sheriff Mbye, rebelled and were sidelined, effectively placed on leave with the rest of his loyal officers. Their protest was that Press Jagne wants to be IGP at all cost, even to the demise of the elephant, the Gendarmerie symbol.

Interestingly also was that during the past march rehearsal of Independence Day celebration in Feb.1994, Lt. Yaya Jammeh was observed playing the role of the President, the Commander in Chief, inspecting the guards! I reminded my friends of what the Turkish Military Intelligence officer said.

I was posted to the new Police HQ, Complaints and Discipline, much like military police and I used to wear police attire with a tie and grey Gendarmerie beret. Lt. Col Ebrima Chongan used to wear full ceremonial police uniform, with the new IGP. My unit was tasked with cleaning the police of undesirable people and ironing out the discipline from late coming to corruption. My police commander and others were refused entry and down right no corporation from the TSG personnel because they were police and we had to be military police less the arms, to get corporation from them and our investigations were often hampered by missing files and very senior officers were covering for their boys. I wanted to move to the army like most of the commando unit and we were all refused audience and threatened with court martial. My unit started getting somewhere, when we went out to schools and radios to get our role in the police to Gambians. There was an incident when police at Mandinaba checkpoint assaulted Ebrima Sankareh, then a journalist with a daily paper, and we went in to sort things out.

On the morning of 22 July 1994, I was on leave that day and was awaken by shouting all over Fajara Barracks, “cowards, they all ran away!”. I knew that something serious was wrong. I was told that it was a coup and that Yaya Jammeh and some officers were disarmed at the airport as they planned to escort the President to the barracks, after the Guard of Honour the previous night. My contention with all those in authority was why those mutineers were not immediately under custody. They had planned to arrest them the next morning I learnt. Edward Singhateh reported spent that night crying, being consoled that they will go on and take over the government before the planned arrest. Yaya Jammeh had been in the army less than a year and was not known to the soldiers of GNA. He relied on Edward Singhateh for men, as his own unit refused to follow him into unlawful takeover and most paid for it dearly after the takeover. The insurrectionists were ready early in the morning, with most other GNA officers either oblivious of the coup or part of it. The rest were immediately arrested and incarcerated to Mile 2 Prisons, including Gendarmerie and some police officers. To be continued. Look out for part 2!

Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 (Archive on Monday, September 03, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI Contributed by PNMBAI
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