By Landing Ceesay
A witness delivered his testimony at the High Court of the Gambia, where the alleged coup plotters are undergoing trial. He recounted that Sanna Fadera (1st accused) said that the taxpayers are “suffering” under the current regime, and they need to overthrow the government.
Sergeant Karamo Jatta, a Military Officer in the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), appeared before Justice Basiru B.V.P. Mahoney at the High Court. He stated that he has been in the Military for over 20 years. He stated tha he joined the force sometime in 2002 and is currently stationed at Farrafenni Barracks in the North Bank Region (NBR).
Sergeant Karamo Jatta is testifying in a treason trial involving members of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), and a member of the Gambia Police Force (GPF).
The Four (4) Soldiers and one (1) Police Officer are accused of an attempted alleged coup and charged with five counts including treason.
The Soldiers and a Police Officer charged are; Lance Corporal Sanna Fadera (1st accused) Private Officer, Gibril Darboe (2nd accused) Corporal Ebrima Sannoh (3rd accused), and Corporal Omar Njie (4th accused), Fabakary Jawara (5th accused) is the Police Officer charged alongside the Soldiers.
Sergeant Karamo Jatta testified in court that he recognized three of the accused persons. He identified them as Sanna Fadera (1st accused), Gibril Darboe (2nd accused), and Ebrima Sannoh (3rd accused).
Sergeant Karamo Jatta testified in court that he had an encounter with the accused persons on December 3, 2022. He said that Sanna Fadera (1st accused) called him in the afternoon and requested to meet with him. Sergeant Jatta said that he told Sanna Fadera that he would be going back to Farrafenni on Wednesday.
“He (Sanna Fadera) told me that he wanted to see me personally, that he has something very important he wants to talk with me about. I told him anyway, I will be going back to Farrafenni on Wednesday. But I will do everything for him to see me.
“He (Sanna Fadera) told me that the way this country is, it is not going in the right direction. He told me that taxpayers are suffering much more the Soldiers. He (Sanna Fadera) told me that he cannot say everything on the phone because it is not safe, but he will make everything possible to meet in Farrafeeni for us to talk about it,” Sergeant Jatta told the Court.
Sergeant Jatta testified that he was unable to see the first accused person until the day he returned to Farrafenni.
Sergeant Jatta testified that he returned to Farafenni on Wednesday. The following day, Thursday, he called Sanna Fadera to inform him that he had returned to Farafenni, but had not been able to see him as promised. Sanna Fadera told him that he would apply for permission to see him in Farafenni.
“It was Friday after closing hours. I was walking towards the main gate of the Barracks when I saw Sanna Fadera at the gate. He told me that he was about to call me, but I had appeared. I told him okay, and he asked me where we could talk about the issue. I told him that we could go to my room. We left the Barracks and went to my house.
“On our way to my house, I told Sanna Fadera that I believed he was there to discuss the coup he had mentioned to me on the phone. He confirmed that this was the case, and told me that the coup was already a success because all the logistics were in place. He said that he had already arranged 200 vehicles for the overthrow, and asked me how many jujus I would need. I told him that I could not tell him how many jujus I would need until I had mobilized people, and that would be the time I will know”. Sergeant Jatta told the court.
Sergeant Jatta testified that when they reached his room, he opened the door and invited Sanna Fadera to sit down. They both sat down on his bed.
Sergeant Jatta told the court that while they were sitting on his bed, Sanna Fadera took out a handheld device, which he told Sergeant Jatta was the operational plan for the coup.
Sergeant Jatta testified that Sanna Fadera then tried to explain to him how he planned to operate during the coup. He also showed Sergeant Jatta the operational map. Sergeant Jatta said that he saw the operational plan and took a photo of it, as well as the map.
Sergeant Jatta testified that he asked Sanna Fadera if there were any other officers involved in the coup plot, and Sanna Fadera replied that yes, there were, but that they would have to follow his lead.
Sergeant Karamo Jatta also testified that on the morning of December 18, 2022, he called Sanna Fadera to inform him that he was on his way to Kombo for the meeting.
“I asked Sanna Fadera where I should drop off in Brikama. He told me to drop off at the Jah Oil fuel station. When I arrived at Jah Oil, I called Sanna to let him know that I was there. He told me to wait a moment, as he was coming to pick me up. I waited for a while and saw him approaching. He took me to a nearby compound and told me that we would wait for the other representatives who were coming from other barracks. So we sat in the room and had breakfast while we waited for the others to arrive.
“After a while, he (Sanna Fadera) called somebody whom he was asking whether he would come to the meeting. After the conversation, he told me that he was speaking to one Njie B (4th accused) at Yundum Barracks who was supposed to attend the meeting. He (Sanna Fadera) told me that, that Njie B said he was assigned by one of his commanding officers he cannot make it to the meeting,” he said.
Counsel B. Badjie, representing the fourth accused person, objected to the witness’s statement. He argued that the statement was hearsay.
“We are objecting to that, my lord, that statement tantamounts to hearsay. We are urging my lord to expunge that part from his testimony. Section 19 of the Evidence Act states that hearsay is not admissible in Criminal cases,” Counsel B. Badjie argued.
In response to Counsel B. Badjie’s argument, Deputy Director of Prosecution A.M. Yusuf said that the witness’s statement did not amount to hearsay because the witness was simply repeating what he had been told.
In his ruling, Justice Mahoney sustained the objection of Counsel B. Badjie and expunged the part of the witness statement where he said: “He (Sanna Fadera) told me that, Njie B (4th accused) said he was assigned by one of his commanding officers he cannot make it to the meeting.”
Sergeant Karamo Jatta continued his testimony after the ruling. He told the court that Sanna Fadera called Warrant Officer Class 2 Jadama and placed the phone on speaker.
Sergeant Jatta said that Jadama answered the call and exchanged greetings with Sanna Fadera.
Sergeant Jatta testified that Warrant Officer Class 2 Jadama told Sanna Fadera that he was at his service, and Sanna told him that he was just calling to check on the preparations.
“Jadama told him that I am on it, I even have some men. He (Sanna) told him that anything from the meeting I will let you know. So around 12 midday, the driver arrives whom I later know as Mustapha Jabbi (PW4). When Mustapha arrived Sanna told me that instead of having the meeting in Brikama we will go to Kafuta. He told me that can we wait for other representatives from other battalions. That’s how we left the house in Brikama. We went up to Jah Oil where he (Sanna Fadera) picked me about 150 meters from Jah Oil. We met Sannoh E (3rd accused) and boarded the vehicle, and went straight to Kafuta.
“When we reach Kafuta, none of us in the vehicle knew the compound of Gibril Darboe (2nd accused). We went until we reached the outskirts of the village where the Police Checkpoint is, we turned around and the driver parked off the road. Sanna (1st accused) called Gibril (2nd accused) to ask him where the compound is. All of a sudden we saw Gibril waving at us from a distance. We drove towards him and when we reach the driver stopped,” he told the court.
Sergeant Jatta testified that when they stopped the vehicle, the driver’s phone rang. Sergeant Jatta was also receiving a call at the time, and he saw the driver hand the phone to Sanna (the first accused). Sanna spoke on the phone for a moment, then handed it back to the driver. Sergeant Jatta said that he was not paying close attention to Sanna and the driver, because he was also on the phone.
Sergeant Jatta testified that he was unable to say exactly what Sanna Fadera and the driver (Mustapha Jabbi) were talking about on the phone. He stated that he was not paying close attention to their conversation, as he was also on the phone at the time.
“Before we got out of the vehicle, the driver said he was speaking on the phone with his men at the border, who was speaking to Cherno Njie. I asked who Cherno Njie was. Sanna said he was the man who sponsored the attack on December 30th and was also sponsoring this coup. Sanna said Cherno told him to prepare a budget for the coup, which should include weapons,” Sergeant Jatta told the court.
However, Lawyer LS Camara, Counsel for the 1st and 5th accused persons objected to that part of the statement by the witness.
Counsel LS Camara argued that the statement is hearsay and it cannot be admissible.
In response to Counsel LS Camara, the state counsel A.M Yusuf urged that a statement made to establish the truth is not a hearsay statement since it is to establish the truthfulness of the statement.
In his ruling, Justice Mahoney ruled in favor of Counsel LS Camara and he expunged the statement from the records.
After dropping off the car, Sergeant Jatta and the others went to Gibril’s compound. They found chairs arranged under a mango tree. Sergeant Jatta asked them to start the meeting because he needed to go back to Faraffenni.
Sanna was handed a blue book, but he asked that it be given to Ebrima Sannoh (the third accused), who was the spokesperson. The meeting then began.
Sanna told them that he wanted to improve all sectors, including the army. He said that captains in the army would be promoted, and those who played good roles would also be promoted to captain. Corporals would be promoted to second lieutenant if they succeeded.
Sergeant Jatta testified that they discussed arresting senior officials, including the Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector General of Police.
Sergeant Jatta testified that Ebrima Sannoh, the third accused, said that even a jet flyover would not affect their operation. Sanna Fadera, another accused, told them that he had arranged with some radio stations, which he would not identify, to announce the coup if it was launched. Sanna Fadera also said that they had people who would mobilize others to come out in the streets to demonstrate their support for the coup.
Sergeant Jatta testified that he asked Sanna Fadera how prepared they were with soldiers, and Fadera told him that they were all set and had mobilized 11 platoons. Jatta asked for a list of the soldiers, but Fadera said that he had been advised not to prepare a list in case they were arrested, so there would be no evidence of people involved in the coup.
Sergeant Jatta also testified that a list of weapons that they had in their possession was communicated in the meeting. The weapons included RPG 7, 4 pistols, and combat body armor.
Sergeant Jatta said that Sanna Fadera told them to be ready, and the meeting ended with a prayer and then lunch.
The case was adjourned to Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at 1:00 PM for the continuation of the testimony of Prosecution Witness 7.