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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Dear Momodou Lamin Gassama

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By Samsudeen Sarr

This is Samsudeen Sarr responding to your deposition on 14 February 2019 to the TRRC where you unnecessary left impression to the country that I could have possibly been a coconspirator in the July 1994 coup d’etat.
For no good reason in my estimation, you fabricated that you sent me on the morning of 22 July 1994 to the Gambia Marine Unit base to get 50 calibre machine guns to reinforce the firepower at State House and I ended up calling from Radio Gambia broadcasting station for reasons you couldn’t understand. There, you deliberately categorised me among those who had participated in bringing the coup to a success.

Your lies started to be unveiled the moment you claimed that on your own initiative, you took charge of the command and control of State House security that morning after realising that the whole guards including their commanders had disappeared except the one person you saw pretending to be “Rambo” Sergeant Camara alias “Bombardé”. This meant that the only soldiers accessible to carry out your operational orders were beside me, Captain Pa Modou Ann the GNA officer you said offered his service to you and who more or less was the famous warrior just arriving from the battlefields of Liberia. I had never been to Liberia. In fact the conventional wisdom was that I was scared to go to Liberia to the extent where I deliberately shot myself on my leg in May 1988 just not to go to Liberia in a war that started in September 1990.
GNA officers like you still peddle that nonsense but could never clarify the stupidity behind that false allegation.

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The only reason I can see your mentioning Captain Ann, the warrior, volunteering his service to you, was to send the arcane message to those silly officers signaling them on how you were juxtaposing the GNA warrior to the GNA coward who was a mere staff officer at the defence ministry.

Anyway, since you never wanted to admit that I volunteered to go to the Marine Unit but said that you indeed sent me there; how come you didn’t send Captain Ann the “warrior” who by every measure of his “experience and bravery” could have perform a far better operation than I, the “coward”?
You said that you first went to inform Vice President Saihou Sabally about the ongoing coup and found him receiving the American guests in his office where you left him after he told you that he was aware of the situation and was pretty much monitoring it. You then came down and ordered me to go and get the big guns at the Marine Unit.

The next progression of your actions was to go into the president’s house to let him know for the first time about what was happening. But when you were about to get to the door of his bedroom Vice President Sabally whom you just left upstairs entertaining the American suddenly emerged out of Sir Dawda’s bedroom and told you in Mandinka that you better go and talk to the president because of his stubbornness. Why you skipped how or when he climbed down from the building three floors above, walked across the spacious yard unnoticed and entered Sir Dawda’s bedroom to advise him on the need to vacate the State House punch a big hole on the authenticity of your story.

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You didn’t simply sound stupid there but it was the first signal I read that you were going to eventually throw Saihou Sabally under the bus for your selfish credit and fame. I will get into the Saihou Sabally matter at the right time in the sequence of your story.
But let’s look at this other one about the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pa Sallah ‘Press’ Jagne. You explained that he was arrested, put in handcuffs and locked up in a cell on the American vessel as soon as his presence there was known to everybody. Yes, I later asked the IGP and he further elucidated how few minutes after being locked up, the door was eventually opened just for Sir Dawda to tell him why he was under arrest: that he, IGP Jagne was the leader of the mutiny. I am sure you were right behind Sir Dawda when he was accusing Press. So what was the hypocrisy all about when you said that upon your arrival in Dakar, Senegal, when the IGP decided to return to The Gambia Sir Dawda warned him not to go and endanger his life? Press was not that dumb like you; if the coup had failed, let’s say by the intervention of the American marines or though the help of Senegal and the PPP was reinstated to power, Press would have been the first among the members of the security forces to face a court martial for “being the leader” with a possible verdict to either spend the rest of his life in prison or face a firing squad.

Likewise, knowing what I know now especially about you, you certainly would have been the principal witness of the prosecutor in my court martial for seizing the radio station in an effort to help reinforce the coup operation. I will now take you through the sequence of events.

First, take a look at how you contradicted yourself in that narrative where you claimed to have sent me to the Marine Unit to bring you weapons on 22 July 1994. You had totally forgotten your assertion that when you arrived with Sir Dawda from England on 21 July 1994, the very day the USS La Moure County docked at the Banjul Port around 5pm, none of you, you said, were aware of the presence of the Americans or any exercise slated to take place between them and the GNA. If that was so, how then the next morning around 8am you knew about the availability of the 50-calibre machine guns brought in by the same battleship? There again you simply exposed your unawareness of that inconsistency generally seen in folks bent on stealing other people’s ideas and presenting them as their own. Careful listeners with average intelligence will straightway see your evasion of the truth.

Of course, it was the USS La Moure County that actually brought the machine guns the previous day that were to be delivered to the GNA in a ceremony at the Marine Unit base that morning.
So just swallow your pride and acknowledge the fact that I told you about those guns that morning and volunteered to go and explore the possibility of using them with the Marine Unit platoon to match the firepower of the approaching GNA soldiers. But in stealing the idea as yours, you ended up making a big fool of yourself.
That said, I simply didn’t want to be anywhere around the State Guard Unit in that state of uncertainty that morning after my first experience with their officers particularly with their commander, Major Turo Jawneh who had treated me while serving there like I was not even a Gambian.

You remember? I had to plead with you Momodou Lamin Gassama, to avail on Major Turo Jawneh to allow me to park my official car at the same space used for two years by my predecessor Major Momodou Bojang. It was the small parking lot reserved for some officials working in the State House including the military staff officer. As soon as I took over from Major Bojang, Major Jawneh seized that privilege from me forcing me to be parking outside where vehicle owners had to rush in the morning to secure a spot.
When Jawneh first sent one of his guards to notify me that he was ordered by his commander to stop me from using Major Bojang’s parking space, I thought it was all a mistake that could resolve by talking to him directly. So I went to his house that evening after work, a block away from mine at the Mile 7 government quarters to find out why the privilege was seized. The guard at his gate told me to wait outside while he announced my presence to the major. After waiting for a while, he appeared with a pistol in hand asking what I wanted to talk to him about. I told him why I was there and he put it categorically to me that it was an irreversible order, a privilege taken back. Period. And walked right back into his fortress. He wouldn’t give me a single reason for treating me differently from Major Momodou Bojang.

As commander at State House, the guy was very arrogant to me particularly known for claiming that President Jawara was his uncle. Thank God he was soon transferred to Fajara Baracks as the new commander there.
Captain Lamin Kaba Bajo took over the command from him and for sometime maintained the “Jawneh order” of denying me the free parking space until I talked to you Gassama to talk to him. Captain Bajo at last lifted the embargo. He was more understanding.
But for the rest of my stay there from 1992 to 1994, almost everyone in uniform, except perhaps the likes of Lang Tombong Tamba and a few others, treated me with hostility and contempt.

So when I left for the Marine Unit that morning the last place I wanted to return to was at that hostile environment.
You read in my book after we had talked about that situation many times that I couldn’t after all get the guns at the Marine Unit, but decided to drive to Yundum Baracks to find out what was going on. Incidentally, I found the soldiers already at the Denton Bridge ready for a fight if they were not allowed to cross over by the TSG men who were controlling it.
There were no mobile phones at the time otherwise you know that I would have updated you on every detail of my activities.

Moreover, Momodou Lamin, from 1999 the year I left the country on exile to the USA up to 2014 when I reconciled my difference with President Jammeh, we had maintained a consistent cordial relationship in which we had discussed everything under the sun, especially about what had transpired before, during and after the coup. You were among the first people abroad to purchase and read my book where I wrote about what had happened that day. Therefore, to now say that you didn’t know what I was doing at the radio station is by every measure of reasoning an absolute treachery.
Alright, in 2014 when I reconciled with President Jammeh, our relationship changed breaking that mutual understanding we had enjoyed before; although I had harbored nothing against you but respect until you showed up at the TRRC to unveil your true colours to me.

If your decision to antagonise me pivots on my reconciliation with President Jammeh which I believe did, how irrational could you be in parading the values of former president Jawara as that of a saint to the TRRC when his government was overthrown by President Jammeh, but he still took the same decision to reconcile with him well before I ever thought about that?
I remember the discussions we used to have when President Jammeh was reaching out to Sir Dawda to return home and be accorded the treatment of an honourable former president with all the rights and privileges to go with the eminence. Didn’t you tell me that all of you including the former secretary general Sara Janha, the former army commander and ambassador to France Colonel Ndow Njie, the former protocol officer Mr Modou Bobb and the whole crew in England advised Sir Dawda not to accept or even trust Jammeh’s offer? You elaborated on how you all arrived to a consensus that any offer from President Jammeh accepted by President Jawara would be considered a betrayal to all of you.

Betrayal where? In his book Kairaba, Sir Dawda bewailed over how he was in the end disoriented with virtually everybody around him except his close family members a frustration driven to its pinnacle when in one of his last campaign trips to America he asked Mr Sara Janha to accompany him. Then when coming back, without any forewarning, Mr Janha at the airport just told him that he had other unfinished businesses to take care of in America and therefore couldn’t fly back to England with him. Sir Dawda wrote that for the first time throughout his life as a leader he was left alone on his own to take care of himself plus handling his heavy and numerous pieces of luggage.

And from what you once told me, Momodou Lamin, the worst was yet to come later. That Mr MC Cham his former minister of Finance, who recently appeared at the TRRC, conspired with certain con artists and lured Sir Dawda into a bogus investment deal, deceiving him into mortgaging his only house in London but to later learned that Mr Cham had disappeared with the money, subsequently making him lose the house to the bank. Didn’t you tell me that the former president was given an eviction notice around the time President Jammeh had reached out and invited him to come back home? Yes you did!
Nonetheless to be fair to MC Cham, I was later given another version of the story different from yours. That the former finance minister guaranteed Sir Dawda for the bank loan that financed the house over forty years ago and when he could no longer afford the payments of the property, Mr Cham was contacted and he came to England and released the house’s title back to the bank. However, anyway we dissected the issue, his conditioned remained the same – Sir Dawda was going to be evicted at any time.

I was still at the time writing against the APRC government while folks like you encouraging me to keep on doing it never uttered a word against the Jammeh government. Instead you would from time to time inform me about your preparations to visit your families in The Gambia or to finish projects there already started as if I had no families to visit or shouldn’t consider starting a project.

My mother Ya Rohey died in 2004; my grandmother Mam Anta Ndow who literally nursed me as a child died in 2005; my only younger brother Ablie Sarr died in 2007; my uncle, the last brother of my mother, Mustapha Gaye, died in 2010; and in all these tragedies, most of you never even consoled me with a message of condolence, while I wept alone in my misery for not being able to go home and bury them. That hurt dearly Momodou Lamin. But to you all that didn’t mattered. I just had to stay there leading the struggle for you to live your uninterrupted clandestine lives. That was far heartbreaking than evicting Sir Dawda in his London house. But to you Momodou Lamin, Sir Dawda could be forgiven while I couldn’t.

Lady Chilel, Sir Dawda’s first wife can bear me witness on this one. I was with the late Lt Momodou Camara, the first aide-de-camp to Sir Dawda at his apartment on Valentine Avenue in the Bronx, New York when we both talked to President Sir Dawda encouraging him to please take the offer from President Jammeh before it was too late when nobody could assure him another shelter with his family if evicted.
You have to read and understand Sir Dawda’s book to see how the people he had most trusted were either cherished loyalists or outright traitors.
Momodou Lamin, I will never accuse you of betraying Sir Dawda’s trust but from what I gathered in your deposition at the TRRC, if you were a trustworthy person before nothing of what you exhibited in your character now qualifies to be accepted as one.

To be continued

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