David Belgrave OBE, British High Commissioner, Banjul
Ilze Juhansone, Secretary General, EU Commission
Umaro Sissoco Embalo, ECOWAS Chairperson
Dr Omar Alieu Touray, ECOWAS President
Volker Türk, UN Human Rights Commissioner
THE FALSE ATTEMPTED COUP IN THE GAMBIA
I would like to refer you to the press releases by the Government of The Gambia through their Spokesperson in the name of Mr Ebrima Sankareh on 21 December 2022 (original and update – Attachment No 1 and 2) and another press release on 26 December 2022 (Attachment No 3) regarding an attempted coup in the country. As soon as they made the announcements, the Gambian population refused to accept the claim not only due to the inconsistencies in the press releases, but most especially due to the impracticability of the claim and circumstances surrounding it. I also released a statement about the so-called attempted coup (Attachment No 4). One of the suspects, Mr Ebrima Sanno is my junior brother. This letter, which will also be shared with relevant media outlets as an open letter, is to bring to light facts about the attempted coup claim and how the activities of UK, EU and ECOWAS representations in the country have been used to instigate it.
Following my attached statement, I conducted a thorough research and investigations into the veracity of the claim and to gather relevant information as to what could have led to the false coup claim. I cannot proceed with the rest of this letter without seizing the opportunity to thank the top security and government officials and civil servants who sacrificed everything to speak to me.
In the press releases of 21/12/2022, they claimed that it was the Army who foiled the attempted coup (also please see the Minister of Defence’s TV announcement here: https://www.facebook.com/gambiadefence/videos/2122041604651666); that they do not know the first names of some of the soldiers involved; and that those arrested were helping with investigations. Nevertheless, a simple scrutiny of the statement would indicate that the Gambia National Army did not contribute to it as they would know the names of their soldiers. Nonetheless, the Army refuted the coup claim when Alkamba Times contacted their Deputy PRO who said that he was “…not aware of any coup, and it’s not true” (please see: https://alkambatimes.com/unconfirmed-reports-of-an-attempted-coup-in-gambia/). Also, for the fact that they could not convince the Gambian public, they then changed the narratives to say that it was in instead the SIS – State Intelligence Service (formerly called NIA –National Intelligence Agency) who foiled the coup (please seeEbrima Sankareh’s VOA interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o09r5w18bU). The atrocities NIA subjected Gambians to during Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship is well documented (please refer to the various TRRC reports here: https://www.moj.gm/downloads). If it is therefore true, that the arrests of my brother and others were based on a dossier / report from the SIS, it would mean enough intelligence have already been collected about the arrested persons.
Gambia Government’s claim that the detainees are helping with investigations in their press releases of 21/12/2022 can only be described as misleading at best. Up to the time of writing this letter,no one has interrogated them or told them as to what capital offence they have been arrested for. Government’s press release of 26 December 2022 (Attachment No 3), that an investigative panel would be set up, which has already been done according to local newspapers, goes to corroborate that i) the claims that SIS have done investigation on the suspects hence the dossier / report leading to their arrests is erroneous and ii) arrests were made on NO just grounds. Notwithstanding, my consultations with relevant legal experts indicate that such a panel runs contrary to the dictates of the constitution. There is no provision in the constitution, or the rules of the Gambia National Army based on which the panel was constituted.
There are several questions about the investigative panel besides its illegality. Members of the 11-member panel have not been disclosed. All the members apparently come from government-controlled security institutions who are direct parties to the coup claim; national security council, SIS, Police and the Army (who are refusing to cooperate as they have nothing to do with the false coup). The panel’s inauguration as described by Government also lacks credibility.
In my investigations, the Gambia Police officials emphatically told me that they have nothing do with the arrests of the soldiers.Regarding the possible linking of Mr Momodou Sabally, a prominent opposition politician arrested shortly before the alleged coup attempt for saying that they would take the country, the Gambia Police said they do not yet have any directives to do so. The official said if thathappens it would be a decision of politicians and not the Police. The official said it is possible that politicians are working behind the scenes to link them up. For the Gambia National Army, they repeated their position that they have not been involved in any coup. They are waiting for the Government to present to them evidence for the so-called attempted coup. They are viewing this coup claim as an attack on the Army and its integrity and that they will continue to cooperate with civilian authorities where lawful to do so.
As to the motives for the false attempted coup, two reasons consistently and constantly came out during my confidentialconsultations with relevant top government officials and civil servants. These are: first, the donor funds from the European Union(EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) towards the security sector andsecond, the presence of ECOWAS’ ECOMIG mission in the country.
I was made to understand that EU and UK have been providing support to the Gambia Government to a tune of about $30 – $35 million all together. Amongst other things security sector reforms were supposed to be carried out. However, none of the projects and programmes were implemented. So, in order to come up with justifications for the EU and UK to continue with the security sectorfunding, they came up with such false attempted coup claims.
I am not surprised that the security sector reforms, and other related projects were not implemented. Most of such donor funds are misappropriated and corrupt government officials and politicians usethem to finance their local political activities. Quite often, local staff of donor countries and organisations partake or benefit directly or indirectly from the misappropriated funds. I have extensively studied the practice when I was contracted by UNDP Gambia to set up National Planning Commission (NPC) for the Government in 2008/9. NPC was the apex body responsible for directing and coordinating strategy and planning matters at central, sector and decentralised levels. It was also responsible for aid coordination functions. Among NPC’s top priorities were to address and control misappropriation of donor funds. As the false attempted coup is linked to the financial support the EU have been providing, I would therefore like you (EU)to tell Gambians and the world if your Gambia country mission or its staff have forehand knowledge of the false attempted coup claim and whether your local staff have been benefiting (directly or indirectly) from your funded projects particularly in the security sector.
The Political and Economics Officer at the British High Commission (BHC) has expressed support for the repressive activities of Gambia Government; that it was right for Mr Momodou Sabally (a prominent opposition figure) to be arrested as people should not say they would remove a government before elections. She has now protected her tweeter handle so I could not provide a link to the tweet. This support therefore compromises her position to be able to provide independent and objective advice to BHC as she is conflicted with local political affiliation . I also remain to be convinced that Jainaba Faye has in fact not been benefiting from the funds being released by BHC to Gambia Government either directly or through third parties. I therefore await an explanation from BHC and I would also like themto accept this letter as a formal complaint to that effect.
People can express personal and private opinions about issues but where these conflict with their official functions, then it becomes problematic.
In response to the political impasse in the country when former President Yahya Jammeh refused to handover power to current President Adama Barrow, the ECOWAS Commission sent regional troops called ECOMIG. Senegal, which is fighting the MFDC separatist group in Cassamance, Southern Senegal, has the largest contingent in the regional force. This contingent is using Gambia to launch attacks against MFDC separatists. They have also been alleged to be responsible for the killings of innocent Gambians in Foni districts of the Gambia. These, among others, explain the unpopularity of ECOMIG forces in the country and why citizens now want them out.
There are therefore many interests from the side of ECOWAS Commission. Senegal would like to have a presence in the country touse it as a launch pad for attacks on MFDC. Adama Barrow is now guarded entirely by Senegalese forces. It should be recalled that the President of Senegal is very influential with ECOWAS Commission and was instrumental in the deployment of ECOMIG forces. The soldiers in the contingent, are seeing this as source of receiving fat salaries. The statement by the ECOWAS (Attachment No 6) in their condemnation of the false attempted coup, is so skeletal that no one in the body could put their name to it. In addition to the above cited interests, it is hence plausible that some rogue members of ECOWASCommission have a hand in the now dismissed coup attempt.
Most conflicts and instabilities in West Africa are in fact orchestrated and sponsored by local politicians and Government officials in order to divert and misappropriate the funds allocated to fighting theconflicts. What is happening in Gambia regarding the false attempted coup is not an exception. Gambians and the world are therefore owed explanations as to what roles ECOWAS or its rogue staff played in the so-called attempted coup and why ECOWAS handled it in such awoeful unprofessional manner. I would like ECOWAS to please accept this letter as a complaint to that effect.
I am aware that further arrests have been announced by the Government. I was informed about these arrests well before they were announced. One of those arrested, Captain Ebrima Baldeh is a confidante of President Adama Barrow and is closed to the presidency. So, his arrest could be an attempt to put a wool over people’s faces and to insinuate that senior officers have also been involved and that detainees are not from only one ethnic group. Baldeh’s arrest also confirms my findings, which will be published separately, about how the coup was in fact poorly planted (in a rush) by security agents using the so–called attempted coup leader and others.
I am aware that a Security Adviser in the person of Abubakarr Suleiman Jeng has been hurriedly appointed (please see: https://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/headlines/abubakarr-suleiman-jeng-appointed-new-national-security-adviser), who quickly organised a media briefing (Attachment No 7) on 29 December 2022. In the security briefing where no questions were entertained, it again became clear that what they are saying lack credibility and that the whole story has in fact been concocted (please see: https://www.facebook.com/zoomtvgm/videos/847450456471686). Amongst others, they claimed that “clandestine meetings were held within the country; that some civilians have been involved; that the operational plan include taking over statehouse, navy identified to be the launching platform, key locations to be occupied, seal off ECOMIG troops, and arrest ministers to prevent foreign intervention”. Any person in good health of mind would know that it is illogical and literally impossible for a few soldiers to be able to dowhat Jeng claimed are in the operational plan let alone by junior soldiers who cannot direct / command anyone. It is clear that many of the detainees do NOT know each other and have never met. So, how can such people have meetings and why were they not arrested during those meetings?
Reliable inside information I have received indicate that Mr Jeng, has in fact been asked to write the operational plan he was talking about in the media briefing hence his hurried appointment as Security Adviser.
To conclude, I would also like to appeal to Gambia Government’s development partners, in particular the EU, UK and ECOWAS for them to ensure that their engagements with the government is based on government’s respect for democratic norms most especially rule of law, human rights and freedom of speech / association and to depart from autocratic tendencies; and urge Gambia Government to take the innocent detainees to court or release them until they are charged. I would also like to bring these developments to the attention of the Office of the High Commissioner, United Nations Human Rights about the repressions and human rights violations by the Gambia Government. What the Barrow Administration is doing now is exactly how Yahya Jammeh started until he massacred about 44 Ghanaians, 9 Nigerians, 2 Togolese, and nationals of Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia and Senegal in 2005 among many other rights violations. Please see the TRRC reports for these. What exacerbatesand makes the current situations worrying is the ethnic tensionspoliticians of the ruling party are orchestrating and inciting.
The best conflict prevention strategy is to act on and address the signs when they surface, and I hope ECOWAS and the international community adopts that strategy on Gambia.
I am available to shed lights on any of the issues raised above.
Dr Morro ML Touray, MInstPM, DLSHTM, MSc (GCU), MSc (LSE), PhD (USW)
1. HE Mr Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana
2. HE Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
3. HE Mr Alassane Dramane Ouattara, Président de la République de Côte d’Ivoire
4. HE Mr Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma, President, République Togolaise
5. HE Mr Macky Sall, President, République da Sénégal