While Gambians reflect on the events of July 22 in different ways, July 23 is the day that I want to reflect on.
The reason is, because it was the day I came face to face with Yahya Jammeh and probably the first broadcast journalist to speak to him directly.
His recollection of this day shaped my opinion on him.
Things happened so fast on the previous day at Radio Gambia as the radio station was completely deserted before Friday prayers.
It began as a normal day for me and the first thing I would do was to find the recorded BBC tape to transcribe for the international news.
Stories about the Bosnian war which were so confusing to me dominated the international news.
While we were busy at the newsroom, news started trickling in that soldiers were staging a mutiny supposedly for the lack of pay for duties to the Liberian war.
At that stage no one really knew what was happening until some radio Gambia staff on their way to Banjul returned after being denied passage.
Minutes later it was pandemonium when a group of soldiers walked through the gates.
Some staff didn’t wait to find out what was going on as they escaped by jumping over the fence.
The soldiers were armed to the teeth and walking behind an unarmed Samsudeen Sarr.
Except Major Sarr the rest of the soldiers had their berets turned inside out.
I was later told that it was a sign of a rebellion.
Sam Sarr had a lengthy conversation with Bora Mboge at the court yard while staff watched and listened.
I remember Sam saying “we will not allow these bandits to take over this country “.
That was when I realized that a coup was taking place.
I will leave it at that.
The following day, my name was announced with other staff on air to report to work that day and late in the afternoon the iconic Renault 404 was at my door to pick me up for work.
My neighbours were worried because the driver was accompanied by a soldier.
We drove to Radio Gambia and already there, were the late Alh Lalo Samateh, the late Musa Camara and the late Pa Matarr Jawo.
May Allah grant them Jannah.
Also present was Alieu Jobe.
Not knowing what was going to happen, we were just playing an interlude of military music which I was told was brought in by the late Sadibou Hydara.
All of a sudden a heavily armed military convoy drove in and soldiers quickly jumped out and took positions.
They came in, and the most noticeable among them, was the man in red beret and in thick dark glasses.
I received them in the studio and one them told me that they were there to make an announcement.
When I asked who was going to speak, the man behind the dark glasses, Yahya Jammeh, said it was him.
I ushered him in and a group of soldiers followed through. I don’t remember any of those soldiers.
I will end it here and for those who are planning to make a film or documentary on him can get the rest of the story from me.
I’m the only living witness to what happened in studio of Radio Gambia on that day.
Alhagie Essa Jallow
Celebrating Sidia Jatta’s birthday
Here’s Why We Get to Celebrate Sidia Jatta’s Birthday.
Sidia Jatta: Happy birthday to you, today, we salute you at 71 years.
Che Guevara teaches us: “For the revolution, passion and audacity are required in big doses”. Street protester, past convict of conscience, these assets you have in plenty – in the land of “plenty be found within its borders”.
Your DNA? Contrite, contemplative, consociational; conscientious – a consistent fighter for democracy, human rights and social justice; never, afraid.
Elder Paddy, “the impunity of yesteryears is still as plenty”. Comrade, Bob Marley is telling us: “Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight”: Sidia Jatta for all your sacrifices and struggles for the Gambian people is fully recognized.
Your compassion becomes real when Gambians recognized your shared humanity.
Happy birthday to you;
Mamudu: Sidia Jatta is in a class of his own. A man with an urgent mission.
He is different from the current crop of other Gambian politicians, whose only mission is speaking from the side of the mouth while thinking with the stomach.
Sidia Jatta is not one to take injustice lying down.
He fought both President Dawda Kairaba Jawara and Yahya Jammeh when they were busy annexing and grabbing land, corruption and bad governance.
He refused twice ministerial position.
He challenged and criticized both administration’s legal, political and economic policies.
Even though President Jawara was his fellow tribesman, he did not hesitate to lay the facts bare and fight for what he believed was right.
Mamudu: Many times, his voice was always in the minority. He was and still not mesmerized by “tyranny of numbers” but reason.
Sidia Jatta is no “political Jaliba”.
He is not a sycophant. In parliament he neither sleep nor clap in parliament chambers.
Sidia Jatta is not a political “hustler” for human rights and not a self-styled tribal kingpin who mortgages his people to the highest bidder to facilitate his own penchant for primitive accumulation.
Sidia Jatta is a gentleman. Class Act. He is no lousy politician; he is not the vocal politician pretending to fight corruption while at the same time using corrupt means to avoid the law by legal technicalities. He saw politics as a means of public service and not an opportunity to further raw nepotism.
He never sold his conscience for money. He knew money could buy material things but at the same time appreciated that it is never everything. Sidia is a solid man. He didn’t need some “tribal” awakening to do that which is right. In style and substance, his commitment to his people is exemplary.
Happy Birthday Hon. Jatta.
Alagy Yoro Jallow