By Lamin Cham & Mafigi Ceesay
Former senior members of the army have continued to be grilled by the lead counsel Essa Faal on a seemingly vortex of conspiracies and revenge against each other, all fully controlled by former president Jammeh. The latest to face the commission was Modou Alieu Bah, commonly called MA, who was taken out of a 25-year jail term for concealment of treason in the wake of the 2006 failed coup, to become a star witness against Lang Tombong Tamba who spearheaded investigations leading to his imprisonment in 2006.
Bah, who later became Interior minister in the dying days of the Jammeh regime, told the TRRC that Gen. Tamba led the investigations against him and was the convener of the court martial that convicted him for concealment of treason despite the fact that, Tamba knew that he had not concealed anything because he had told Tamba about the coup. However, when the lead counsel asked him whether he had told the panel of investigators about the fact that he had informed Tamba about the planned coup, Bah said he could not do that because Tamba was himself leading the panel and it would not have been safe. He said he had also called the then Interior minister Babucarr Jatta about the reported coup. ”I am sure telephone records can confirm that Tamba called my mobile phone through his orderly using his office line, at about 1am on March 22, 2006 to confirm that what I told him was true,” Bah said, giving out the two telephone numbers. MA Bah said to his surprise shortly after that call, there was a knock on his compound gate and when his father asked him to check, he found soldiers who told him that they were there to arrest him. ”I begged to change my clothes but i was whisked away straight to Mile 2 where I was kept in a cell,” the witness said. He said after some days, he was taken to the NIA where he faced a panel that included Tamba, asking about his role in the coup. He said he was never taken back to the panel and therefore did not have time to say much. He said the next thing was he was brought before a court and later court-martialed.
Further confirming his reported talk with Tamba, Bah said one day while they were having breakfast just before they entered the court, he received a call on the land phone in the room from one Bo Badjie who told him that Tamba said there was no need for him to go into the box and that he was working to get him free.
Bah was never freed and was sentenced by the court marital to 25 years for concealment of treason.
However, in 2009, Gen Tamba himself got arrested and charged with staging a coup and sent to Mile 2 where he joined Bah and other alleged plotters of the 2006 coup. The trial was widely criticized to be unfair and the evidence against him widely seen to be weak and fabricated.
But the regime was hell bent on keeping Tamba in jail and in a twist of macabre irony, he was charged with taking part in the 2006 coup which he himself crushed.
Suddenly, MA Bah was set free, reinstated into the army and promoted twice in addition to being paid all salary arrears. He appeared in court to testify for the prosecution against Tamba over his alleged involvement in the 2006 coup. Tamba, who was already serving life, was convicted again and sentenced before his pardon in July 2015.
“So your sudden release from jail on pardon, reinstatement and full payment of arrears among others, and your subsequent appearance as a witness against Tamba cannot all be coincidences. This smells of a deal struck between you and the system. You are happy to take revenge,” Counsel Faal told the witness. However, Bah replied that he was not the type who takes revenge and it was God’s will and time that accounted for his release. He said he was always going to be promoted to a captain before his imprisonment having come on top of the class in a promotion examination. ”And in any case, what I testified in court was the truth. I had told Tamba about the coup and that is the gospel truth,” Bah told the commission.
In his closing remarks, MA Bah said what has happened was a period when Gambians were going for each other and the country must now turn a new page to reconcile and move forward.