In the morning of July 22, 1994, as rumours of soldiers heading for Banjul grew clearer, country’s former vice president Saikou Sabally reportedly told the Americans that former President Dawda Kairaba Jawara has made a request to be on their vessel. His permanent secretary at the Defence Ministry, Sulayman Alieu Jack, has told the Truth Commission on Monday that he later learned from Jawara that the information was inaccurate.
On the early morning of July 22, the American ambassador Andrew Winter was at State House in Sabally’s office. The Americans were scheduled to have a military exercise with Gambians soldiers, something the commander in chief Jawara was not aware of.
After the Americans were already in Sabally’s office, information came in that soldiers at Yundum Barracks have broken into the armory and were heading for Banjul.
Sabally who then claimed he went to see the president over this pressing issue came back to the Americans and told them that Jawara has requested for their intervention and also wants to be on their vessel.
“Saikou Sabally said the President made two requests: One of them was that he said he wanted to be evacuated to the vessel but that was not true. That is what the President told me afterwards. I was shocked because I thought Sabally was conveying the requests of the President,” said Jack who is now country’s ambassador to Ethiopia.
“And the second requests was for Americans to intervene and repeal the coup. But Americans say they can evacuate the President and his family but they have no powers to intervene.”
Jack’s testimony falls in line with several people who were close to the former president at the time.
His former ADC Momodou Gassama has told Commission Jawara has refused to be on the American vessels until when he was told his refusal could jeopardize the safety of his family.
It is unclear though why Sabally wanted Jawara on the American vessel. However, several witnesses before the Commission have said he was involved in the coup.
However, Jack said that suggestion does not make sense. Both Sabally and Bakary Bunja Darboe were too close to the throne to be involve in the coup.
Meanwhile, Jack recounted how the presence of Nigerians in the country, the low capacity of National Secret Service and massive intelligence failure aided the coup.
Prior to the 1994 coup, there were several runours of coup. Also, a number of soldiers involved in the 1994 coup were actually arrested and disarmed on July 21 but allowed to go free.
Despite all the red-flags, authorities did not act and there was not meeting of the National Security Council. The Commission continues tomorrow March 25 with its 34th witness.