By Omar Wally
Gambian-born retired US Army sergeant, Papa Faal, has claimed that the 30th December 2014 coup d’etat failed because Brigadier General Musa Savage snitched on them and that the 1st Infantry Battalion that was supposed to join them was a no-show.
On 30 December 2014, a group of Gambians, mainly ex-military officers based in the US, UK and Germany, headed by Gambian-American property developer Cherno Njie, attempted to forcibly overthrow the government of Yahya Jammeh. The attempt was thwarted resulting in the death of some of the attackers, including Lt Col Lamin Sanneh, a former State Guard Commander; Njaga Jagne, retired US Army captain; and Alagie Jaja Nyass.
Brikama-born Faal who travelled from the US to take part in the armed attack, speaking to the local media for the first time since the event, accused Savage – who brigadier general shortly after quashing the attempted coup – of betraying the plotters. He said Sanneh spoke to Savage while he [Faal] was standing “right next” to Sanneh when they were getting ready to move.
“We found out that Savage was going to be the commander at the sentinel. He [Savage] knew that we were coming. If Sanneh was not on favourable terms with Savage, he would not have contacted him,” Faal claimed.
He said owing to the agreement Sanneh had with Savage, he assumed that the coup would “flow freely” and that they would go into State House, disarm the soldiers without killing anyone or shooting any fire.
“[Apparently] the people Lamin Sanneh trusted were not people he should have trusted and it was not a coincidence that Savage was promoted from the rank of major to general [shortly afterwards],” Faal told The Standard.
Faal, a great nephew of former President Jawara denied allegations that he was motivated to remove Jammeh from power by any means necessary because he was smarting from his family losing power and prestige.
“I did not come to topple Jammeh because of my grandfather, Sir Dawda. The Gambia is bigger than Sir Dawda. We saw election after election being rigged, people being killed and [made to] disappear… The country was horrible and people were suffering and the president had become the sole provider of goods and services and he kept enriching himself. How can anyone who have a heart for the country, stay behind?” Faal posited.
He continued: “I went to Afghanistan and fought for the United States. When the call came, why won’t I fight to defend and pull Gambians out of the tragedy that they found themselves in? I will never shirk from my responsibility to help get Gambians out of repression. It is my civic and religious duty and I will not stand by and watch oppression.”
Faal denied claims by the former government that they [the plotters] planned to destroy certain strategic infrastructure in the event they failed in their attempt to dislodge Jammeh at the first onslaught.
“Does it make sense to take over the country and destroy the infrastructure? That would be madness. Denton Bridge was named. If we destroy Denton Bridge, aren’t we locking ourselves in Banjul?” he reasoned.
On the ‘New Gambia’, Faal said “it would only be promising as long as Gambians protect their own destiny and freedom, and not let any leader advantage of them again”.
Editor’s note: Read Rtd Gen Musa Savage’s response to Papa Faal in the tomorrow’s edition of The Standard and the full transcripts of the interview with Faal in the Bantaba column on Friday.