General Cham regrets helping junta to form gov’t

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By Baba Sillah

General Mamat O Cham yesterday told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission that he regretted his action in helping the military junta to form a government that overthrew the democratically elected government of former President Jawara and which started committing atrocities and violation of human rights in the country.
General Cham who appeared before the commission yesterday however pointed out that initially when the coup was organised by some disgruntled soldiers, his intention was to help them take over the country without any bloodbath and restore sanity to the country in order to avoid chaos as the situation at the time was complicated.

General Cham also drew the attention of the commission to the role he played when he was invited by the junta which according to him, was to negotiate between the council and Senegal, the international community, formation of council and the drafting of the council’s speech which he said was read on the radio by chairman Jammeh.
“I regretted helping the military junta to form a government after what I have seen during their stay in power and if I knew that since the ontset of the coup, I would not have helped them form a government but at the time my role was to restore sanity and to avoid chaos and foreign intervention in the country,” Cham who was a captain at the time told the commission.

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General Cham, who spent 27 months in detention at Mile 2 with his other colleagues further told the commission that he felt ‘humiliated and betrayed’ by the military junta particularly Edward Singhatey whom he said led a group of soldiers to torture them while in detention, describing their condition in detention as ‘horrible and inhumane.’
According to him after the dust of the coup was almost about to settle, he and his other colleagues were surprisingly taken to Mile 2 by Sana Sabally and other junta members and upon their arrival, Sana Sabally held him at gunpoint and told him he was under arrest and subsequently they were locked up in a cell without any due process or reason[s], which he described as a ‘betrayal and humiliation.’

He described the prison conditions and diets as ‘unbearable, cruel and beyond human imagination’. “There were gun shots in mock executions to send psychological message to the detainees which had affected some of the detainees such as Captain Samsudeen Sarr who had some psychological problem after his release from detention,” Mr Cham who briefly served as the Communication and Minister Fishery under the regime told the commission.

General Cham also earlier testified that the day after the coup, there was a negotiation to bring former President Jawara who boarded an American ship with other cabinet ministers to come back to the country as an elder statesman and not as a president, noting that the next logical step taken by the council was to form a government which will comprise soldiers and civilians.

However, he pointed out that he was not part of the group who prevented the return of Jawara at the time and measures were put in place to engage in dialogue.
He continued: “When I arrived at the State House after my visit to the Marine Headquarters, Edward Singhatey told me that they have overthrown the government but they did not know the next step they are to take now. There we discussions to form a transition and made a proposal for the formation of eleven council members.”
He finally testified that that he felt betrayed by Edward Singhatey whom he said he helped get enlisted in the Gambia Army with his brother, Peter Singhatey. He said he was maltreated by Edward Singhatey and other junta members during his detention with his colleagues.
Sittings continue today.

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