21st Anniversary Of 1994 Military Coup In Gambia.

Soldiers who overthrew the Gambia Government in 1994
Members of the Armed Forces Ruling council (AFPRC) of the Gambia in 1994

In this edition of Encounter, kairabanews brings you a unique insight into the successful overthrow of the Jawara’s government by Jammeh and his men.

  How did they do it?

Twenty-one years after the July 22 military takeover, Jammeh remains the last man standing and standing strong. The other members namely, Vice Chairman Sana Sabally, Sadibu Hydara and later Yankuba Touray have long faded into obscurity. One by one, they fell out with Jammeh. First it was VC Sana Sabally and Sadibu hydara who were bundled up and thrown in Jail barely six months in office. Hydara would soon perish for what the authorities alleged high blood issues. Sabally, on the other hand served 9 years in jail and off he goes into exile. Touray would later be fired and then Signateh a couple of years later. But the script never started this way. In fact Sabally and Signateh were the driving force behind the coup. Jammeh and Hydara, were paramilitary policemen who switched uniforms to protest the amalgamation of the paramilitary with the police. Many detested the police label so much, they switch their paramilitary uniforms for military ones.

All and all,  Edward Singateh and Sanna Sabally, were original soldiers who never had to switch uniforms. The two along with Alpha Kinteh, Alhagi Kanteh and Basiru Barrow planned the coup according to excerpts from Captain Samsudeen Sarr’s writings. Sarr’s writings provided the best clues there is about the army and the coup. He explains that the planning took place in the jungles Kudang during a military exercise organized by the Nigerian Commanders. But, the other three had a second thought and fizzled out. Unfazed, Sabally and Signateh turned to hydara and Jammeh. Yaya Jammeh of cause , will never turn down an opportunity to partner in a crime. He once launch a surprised attack on Bakau Police station with fellow paramilitary police because one of them got pulled over by a traffic police. Now, as a new member of the army, the first welcoming is, “Lets commit a crime”. This was a dream come true for Jammeh. To get to be called to participate in a crime of overthrowing the government.

Astonishingly, Jammeh’s notoriety has always been rewarded. Before he switch to the army, he was the president’s most visible body guard doing the dirty job of sweeping people away from the president. In the army, he was quickly crowned as the Military Police commander and visiting different army posts and handing soldiers on guard goodies that widens his appeal among the rank and file. He buys Green tea (attaya) and sugar for the men on duty that he visit during his Shift, according a former soldier. It paid off big time because some of the shady characters he came across like Sabally and Signateh would soon find his law breaking habits very appealing.

Jawara, who had been out of the country for a month was to be welcomed on arrival by the soldiers at the airport. But shortly before his plane touchdown, the Nigerian senior officers searched and disarmed the soldiers at the airport tarmac because of a coup rumor. Gambian soldiers were never fans of Nigerian soldiers brought into the country to take over command and control of the Gambia national army in the wake of two army mutinies. Their presence helped unified the army against the civilian government. To the army it was always “How dare you bring foreign soldiers to come colonize us”. The compounding of the issues reached an explosive turn when the Nigerian soldiers ordered the search and disarmament of troops at the airport. The soldiers left the airport that night to regroup and in the morning launched their successful operations to remove the president. The rest is history.

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