By Tabora Bojang
The junta’s first State House chief of staff, Rtd Captain Ebrima Kambi, yesterday testified before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that he convinced Yahya Jammeh to release Jawara’s detained ministers and marched on foot with him to release them at the National Security Services headquarters.
Captain Kambi, who said he was the longest serving senior military detainee under the junta, was the head of logistics at army by the time of 1994 coup.
He said he visited State House three days after the coup and was informed by Chairman Jammeh that former president Jawara was free to come back but not as president.
He said during their discussions, Jammeh offered him the mayoralty of the Kanifing municipality but he rejected it.
Kambi, now 54, said he rejected the offer because he told Jammeh that as a “a Kiang boy” he cannot be the mayor of the municipality and that Jammeh asked him to be the State House chief of staff.
According to him, his remit in this post include the commandeering of vehicles assigned to the former ministers and facilitating living accommodations for the new military council members.
Kambi who lives in Brikama dilated: “I approached Jammeh. I recommended to him to release the detained PPP ministers to go home, and that they could be called upon if needed instead of keeping them under detention. He accepted this and the two of us walked to the NSS and we released OJ Jallow Agric minister, [Alieu] Kama Badgie, Education minister and Hassan Jallow, the Justice minister who was detained in a cell at the army quarters where he could have died had no one seen him.”
He said they also released one Famandou Sanyang, an MP, who voluntarily joined the ministers at their place of detention.
Kambi who was later arrested and charged with treason, former minister Badgie pleaded with Jammeh not to change the national anthem as it was the nation’s prayer.
He said his role in the release of the ministers sowed the apple of discord with council members like Sana Sabally and Edward Singhatey both of whom stopped greeting him.
Kambi further testified that a few days after this incident, he was arrested by Sabally and another council member Sadibou Haidara when he returned to State House from a two-day family visit.
“Lang Tombong Tamba came to my residence and took me to State House. I was stopped from going upstairs as I would normally do and barely five minutes standing there, Sabally arrived with Sadibou Haidara with their men behind them. I was surrounded and everybody pointed guns at me and I was taken to Mile 2,” he recalled.
Kambi later appeared before a court martial together with Dr Malick Njie where he was acquitted and discharged but subsequently re-arrested and placed under detention at Mile 2 until 1997 when he was released with conditions.
He recalled that after his release, Jammeh called him at State House, informed him that he never desired to arrest him, and wanted to release him since but his fellow council members did not agree and it could have led to more killings if he (Jammeh) was to force his release from detention.