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How Jawara was convinced to board U.S. vessel after 1994 coup


Ebrima Chongan said Gambia’s first president Dawda Kairaba Jawara have appealed to the Americans to intervene and restore democracy following the coup but they said they do not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.


A former commander of the militarized wing of the Gambian police during the 1994 coup has told a Commission probing the rights violations of Yahya Jammeh that the country’s first president was convinced by his vice president and intelligent chief to leave for the American naval ship in the country at the time.

During the time of the coup, an American navy ship, USS La Moure County, was docked in Banjul behind the State House. It was reportedly in the country for a joint exercise between the Gambian forces and the American soldiers.

However, the Gambian leader Kairaba Jawara did said in his book “Kairaba” that he was not aware of the military exercise as the commander in chief nor was he informed by his vice president.

Chongan also confirmed Jawara’s assertion in the book that vice president and defence minister Saikou Sabally was not at the airport during Jawara’s arrival from UK.

He also said the soldiers could have been arrested before the coup but they never were, suggesting that Sabally could have been complicit.

He said it was Saikou Sabally and Kebba Ceesay, the intelligent chief, who convinced Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara to leave for the U.S. ship after the coup was successful.

“Jawara said he was not going to leave the State House but they told him ‘do not put your family at risk’,” said Chongan.

He explained that after the coup, Jawara have spoken to the coup plotters from the American naval ship.

He however said he felt that it was coincidence the Americans were in Gambia during the coup and could not have been involved.

Chongan said the Americans have conducted similar trainings in the past and Jammeh even participated in one of the past joint trainings.

Meanwhile, the Commission probing the human rights violations of Jammeh started on Monday with the testimonies of Chongan, its first witness.

The initial sittings of the Commission is looking into the chain of events that led to coup and the institutional failures that assisted the eventual success.

Chongan was one of the few Gambian security officials who refused the coup after it happened.

In 1996, he was arrested and charged for stealing D4000 and a rake. He said that was an attempt by the military to punish him for his behavior towards the coup plotters.

The trial was prolonged reportedly because of “insufficient evidence” against the suspects and was dismissed by Magistrate Borry Touray.

“There was no case but the court was afraid to dismiss my case,” he said.

Following the dismissal of Chongan’s case, Magistrate Touray was sacked. And Chongan was arrested again and dragged to court.

He was put on trial for 23 months and the state could not present a single witness in the court. “They kept adjourning the case,” he said.

Chongan was released on February 3, 1997 after two years, six months in jail. His testimony continue to Wednesday.

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