By Mafugi Ceesay
Former army chief, retired General Lang Tombong Tamba yesterday appeared before the TRRC to fill in the blanks as to what happened in 1994 when soldiers from the Gambia national army staged a coup.
Tamba, who was then posted at State House, was deputy to Presidential Guard Commander Lamin Kaba Bajo who arrived back with President Jawara into wild rumours of a planned coup by the soldiers targeting his arrival at the airport for its execution.
He described how the coup leader former Lt Yahya Jammeh was disarmed at the airport where he turned up unexpectedly without his men.
Jammeh, he said, had refused to leave the airport premises but the airport ceremony without the usual military parade ended peacefully. He said he had earlier on told his commander, who was in the UK with Jawara, about the rumoured of a coup.
He said the next morning, July 22 when he arrived at Bakau Barracks, he received a call from his Commander Bajo who informed him that the rumoured coup was actually happening as soldiers were said to be moving towards Banjul.
Tamba said the GNA men out-numbered the Presidential Guards and had more sophisticated weapons. ”So when they arrived and with the president we were guarding gone, I decided to give up the State House because it would have been pointless resisting and putting our men at risk,” General Tamba explained. He said at the time his commander Lamin Kaba Bajo had gone to check on former president Jawara at the sea port where he had gone.
He said based on the assessment of the situation on the ground, he decided to surrender but it was never based on a communication with Yahya Jammeh in Jola as was put to him by lead counsel Faal. He said his only communication was with Edward Singhatey through his junior Bakary Camara.
2006 Ndure Cham coup
Gen. Tamba turned to the 2006 coup led by the late Ndure Cham, denying that he was ever part of it. He said when he was told about it, he bought a recorder and handed it to one Mbaye Gaye who recorded a discussion with Ndure Cham on his plans to stage a coup. He said that was necessary because he needed evidence to convince Jammeh who would otherwise have thought that he was after Ndure Cham’s job.
He said after receiving the tape recorder from Mbaye Gaye, he called the head of the police, and other security heads to his bedroom and had the tape played to them.
When it was put to him that he and Peter Singhatey were part of Ndure Cham’s coup, Tamba said that would not make sense because Peter would not have thought to overthrow a government that his brother, Edward was very much part of. “And in any case, if I too were part of the coup and had disagreed with Ndure over leadership as some witnesses have claimed here, I would have gone ahead to declare myself leader, especially with Jammeh out of the country,” Tamba said.
He described MA Bah as an untrusted witness because he allegedly fabricated lies against him in order to have his freedom and be paid his salaries for the number of years he spent behind bars with a promotion.
He said Yahya Darboe had informed the TRRC how he was approached by a panel to implicate him (Tamba) which he, Darboe, rejected.
Tamba said there was no evidence brought before the panel implicating former NIA boss Daba Marenah who was killed, along with others, by the Junglers shortly after the attempted coup.
Gen. Tamba further told the TRRC that the investigative panel interviewing the coupists included Junglers who were posted there by former president Jammeh and they were mainly responsible for taking suspects from Mile 2 to NIA and back. He denied that anyone was tortured in front of the panel but added that what happened to the detainees after was out of control of the panel. He also denied that he himself was ever tortured during his detention and subsequent incarceration at Mile 2. He said he would often pretend that he was tortured but he was never actually tortured. Tamba, who had an impressive career with both the former gendarmerie and the army, denied that his rise to Gen was unusually rapid or was out of any special favour.
The General will continue his testimony today.