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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Deputy chief of protocol testifies in Sabally trial

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Ndey Haddy Jeng said the vice president and other ministers were all seated in an aircraft waiting for Momodou Sabally, former secretary general and head of the civil service.

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Mr Sabally, she said, was having a meeting with the Gambian honorary consul in South Africa at the time. 

Ms Jeng said the vice president and delegation were in South Africa to attend the inauguration ceremony of Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.

Ms Jeng made these revelations yesterday as she testified in trial of Sabally who is battling an eight-count charge of economic crime, abuse of office, neglect of official duty and giving false information. 

One of the accusations is that he “wilfully” and “negligently” delayed the departure of the vice president’s flight from South Africa for 45 minutes while he was part of the delegation. 

He denied any wrong doing.

According to Ms Jeng, the incident took place last year when President Jammeh was set to travel to South Africa. “In May 2014, the President was set to travel to South Africa for the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma. I usually travel in advance before the President to sort out logistical arrangements prior to his arrival,” she said.

For the South African trip, she said she travelled with several ministers, security personnel and protocol officers in advance. “A few days after our arrival in South Africa, I was informed that His Excellency will no longer be travelling and the vice president will be travelling instead. Then my role changed and I assisted the protocol to the VP for logistical arrangement. If the president is not there, then I had limited role to play,” she said.

Ms Jeng said the schedule of departure was, however, changed on the date of departure to The Gambia and was told to inform the members of the delegation. 

According to her, she informed all the members and further told the ministers to join the vice president at her hotel so that they could travel to the airport together.

“But the former SG was having a meeting in another hotel. I was able to reach him through the mobile phone of the honorary consul of The Gambia in South Africa with whom he was having a meeting. I informed him the change of time for departure and further told him to join the VIP and he said he would do so,” she added.

Ms Jeng said she then went to the airport in advance and seated some of the delegates in the aircraft while waiting for the VP and ministers. “After a while, they arrived and were seated. When I noticed Mr Sabally was not with them, I called again the honorary consul to find out where they were and both informed me that they were on their way to the airport. They eventually arrived and greeted everyone before the aircraft departed for Banjul.”

“For how long did the accused keep the VP waiting before the departure,” the chief prosecutor asked. 

Replying, Ms Jeng said 15 minutes.

Under-cross examination, she agreed with Sabally’s lawyer that the atmosphere was “very” cordial when Sabally joined them in the aircraft.

Asked who instructed her about the change of time, Ms Jeng said it was the State House commander, Ansumana Tamba.

“It is true that at the time you were communicating to them by phone, they told you that they were on their way coming and that they were caught up by traffic?” 

“The response was he had finished his meeting and was rushing to the airport,” she said.

Meanwhile the third witness, Modou Sowe was also cross-examined in court. Sowe who was part of the investigation panel said he did not do anything personally apart from obtaining statements from the accused. 

However, he said the panel invited witnesses and recorded their statements. The panel, he added, also recovered documents such as payment of vouchers from the witnesses before writing a report on their investigation.

The trial continues today.


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