By Omar Bah
Abdoulie J Darboe, a former lance corporal of the Gambia Armed Forces narrated how he mysteriously escaped death during the heady days of 11 November 1994 alleged ‘coup’ attempt.
While the AFPRC junta of Yahya Jammeh claimed it had foiled a coup attempt, the “plotters” who survived as well as other military sources who were privy to the affair, said no coup was in the offing and that it was well-planned scheme to liquidate soldiers the junta perceived to be a threat.
Speaking to The Standard this week at his Tujereng residence, Darboe, a native of Pakaliba, Jarra, recalled that on November 11 he was called and assigned by one LF Jammeh to type the minutes of the first meeting of the military junta, which centred on whether they should stick to the three-year transition or not.
Darboe further narrated that when this first meeting, which took place at the Fajara Barracks ended in disagreement, he Darboe, LF Jammeh, Abdoulie Bah, Basiru Barrow and several others were invited to attend another meeting on the same day at around 9pm at the Yundum Barracks.
He said upon their arrival at the barracks the junta members and their guards started shooting. “When things got worse, LF Jammeh told us to get in the car and run but I told him I was not going anywhere because I did not do anything wrong. LF Jammeh started running towards the airport and was chased by the junta loyalists but he luckily escaped together with ‘Sir Jackal’ and Sergeant Sori Jadama,” Darboe said.
He said he was arrested in the vehicle with Basiru Barrow, Lieutenant Abdoulie Bah, Dot Faal and others.
According to Darboe, they were accused of trying to stage a coup, which he said was not true. “They took us to Mile 2 and then to Fajara Barracks. At Fajara we were paraded naked in front of armed soldiers. I can still remember the vice chairman, Sana Sabally, was the one giving commands and after he counted to three, the soldiers started shooting at us,” Darboe alleged his eyes welling with tears.
He went on: “They killed Lieutenant Abdoulie Bah and others on the spot. I was lucky to survive the shooting spree alongside Private Mafugi Sonko, Dot Faal and Lt Basiru Barrow because when they fired, we all threw ourselves down and they thought we were dead but when they realised we were still alive, they arrested us.”
Darboe said the next day the three of them were taken to the Yundum Barracks. “Immediately we arrived, former junta member made a move as if he was going to throw a grenade into our truck but later changed his mind. I don’t know why but a few minutes later, one soldier – who I will not name due to security reasons because he is still in the military – came into the truck and asked whether we are still alive. That’s when he shot both Basiru Barrow and Faal and then shone his torchlight on my face and then said to me, ‘mbading’ (my relative)’, and then left,” Darboe alleged.
He added: “When he left I heard Sana Sabally asking him how many people remained alive in the truck. He told him three and at that point Sabally requested for a digger and asked us to dig our own graves because we were going to be buried alive but I refused and I told him to kill me and bury me himself if he wanted me dead”.
Darboe further alleged that some of the other soldiers who escaped were arrested in their homes the following morning.
“I can still remember the likes of the late Cadet MS Sillah, Sergeant Basiru Camara and others who were among the ones arrested and taken to the Brikama Shooting Range and killed and buried,” Darboe alleged said.
The former soldier recalled in horrifying detail how after that killing spree in the Brikama, the killers came back describing with joy how they killed their former colleagues. “I was devastated and terrified to my bones because I was thinking I would be killed next. I was later taken to Mile 2 with Trawally and others and was released after 18 months without going through any trial. My service in the army was terminated. How I survived those terrible moments remains a mystery to myself,” the former soldier,” concluded.
Editor’s note: The LF Jammeh mentioned by Darboe later headed the armed attack on the Kartong Barracks. He was captured, sentenced to death and executed by firing squad in August 2012. The other soldier, ‘Sir Jackal’ is alive and has been in exile since in a European country.