2006 Failed Coup – Alieu Jobe Vows He Wasn’t to Be President
A chartered accountant by profession, very little was known about Alieu Jobe until his involvement in the March 21st 2006 foiled coup against Yahya Jammeh. This would’ve made him the country’s third president had it succeeded. A fiasco of the planned coup led to the Jammeh regime steering mass arrest of military men and other security outfits as well as civilians. Torture and extra-judicial executions of some of the arrestees followed while the then country’s army head, Colonel Ndure Cham, fled through Southern Senegal before being captured years later and killed.
Named to be the ring leader of the coup, Alieu Jobe made his first public comment on the situation on Monday at the truth-telling commission – TRRC – since his nine years’ incarceration came to an end through a presidential pardon in 2015. According to Mr Jobe, he wouldn’t have been made president due to possible military snubbing or his own professional reasons.
Preceding those claims, Jobe recalled a conversation he had with the former Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces who confided in him his plan to overthrow Jammeh’s government. According to him, Cham banked on the reasons that Jammeh made the army unprofessional as compared to the first Republic, rampant corruption and human rights abuses.
“To me, it was like I was dreaming. He gave lots of reasons,” the 50-year-old man who has been reinstated in government told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission which is investigating the human rights abuses of the former ruling government. The investigation is also involving the state institutions that facilitated the commission of heinous crimes such as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) where Jobe was severely tortured and forced to confess before the national television in 2006.
Alieu Jobe said at that moment in the discussion, he began discouraging his “relative” Ndure Cham because of many reasons, including the fact that coups are never accepted and it could take the country into instability.
“He said they are going to form a civilian government and the objective was to get international recognition and also to ensure that Gambians tolerate them. One thing he also said is he has the support of most of the officers of the armed forces and also some cabinet ministers at that time. One of the things he said was, because I have served for the armed forces of The Gambia transitional government [as a civilian during the Jammeh transition from 1995-1999], he believes I have some understanding with them and he would want to push for my candidature. But even with all that, I discouraged him and my mind didn’t take it. He was contemplating for me to head the civilian government.”
“But I didn’t think I would be”
Alieu Jobe said he never believed he would be president citing existing history that the
military will never overthrow a government and tell a civilian to take it. “I wouldn’t have been and I am not. Maybe my history is not deep. But I’ve never seen the military staging a coup and it turns out to be successful and tells a civilian to come and lead. I know the mindset of the military and therefore it will not happen. I wouldn’t dispute that I would’ve been given a position but not that [presidency]”.
Professionally, Jobe suggested that life after presidency would have been tougher for him considering his young age at the time, 36 years old. He insinuated that serving at the highest job would mean that choice of work will be affected after presidency and his professional accountant job could have ended.
Questioned and tortured at NIA
While being detained at Mile II, Jobe and his co-plotters were frequently collected to face a midnight panel at the NIA offices in Banjul. The obvious questions they would always face is regarding their individual roles in the plot. On the panel, he named Momodou Hydara, former director general at NIA, Baba Saho, an NIA officer, Lang Tombong, former Chief of Defense Staff, Ousman Sonko, former Inspector General of Police, Foday Barry, an NIA officer, a presidential military aide Musa Jammeh alias Malia Mungo and others.
“They asked if Colonel Ndure Cham told me to inform Famara Jammeh about the coup. I said I have no knowledge about the coup. That was when they sent me down and some soldiers [who took him from Mile II including Sana Manjang, Momodou Jarju alias Rambo, Michael Correa etc] escorted me to somewhere within the NIA. I was asked to kneel down while my hands were cuffed from behind. To my surprise, they also put the plastic bag on my face, tied on my neck to an extent that I wouldn’t be able to see and probably to get more suffering. I was struggling to breathe. They started beating me with sticks for a very long time mostly on my back but sometimes on my face as well until my mouth was bleeding. They beat me for about 15 minutes and stopped to ask again. In any case, I know I was beaten for up to 30 minutes altogether.”
Alieu Jobe believes that the beating was coordinated by late Tumbul Tamba, one of the feared members of the “Junglers”, a special torture squad of the then president, Yahya Jammeh. Alieu Jobe was later taken back to Mile II prisons.
“The next night I was taken to the NIA again, also after midnight. I was taken to the panel and the same question was posed to me. When they asked me the same question with the same threat of being beaten again, I decided to tell exactly what I know. I told them yes, Ndure Cham told me to inform Famara Jammeh but then I never did it. Famara also told them the same thing.”
But this confession did not save him from the hit squad. “After that, I was taken to the beating squad where I was beaten mercilessly and later kept in the cell at the NIA. This beating lasts for about 50 minutes using sticks. The cell was at the back at the NIA, close to the beach.”
Inside the NIA cell, he described the place as a filthy environment with urine all over and infested with mosquitoes. He said the room will be dark even during the day time especially when the door is shut. Spending at least three nights there, he recalled it was characterized by beating all throughout.
“Within those three days, every day I was beaten with a lot of questions because they thought I knew everything. There was a day, we were brought again and I think this time I was brought with Tamsir Jasseh taken to the NIA. We were subjected to the same beating and finally sent back to Mile II. That day what they wanted us to do is to write statements. They also told us that we have to appear on the television with the promise that they will let us go home.”
He believes “Coups are wrong”
Jobe never hesitated to call his action wrong, by asserting that: “coups are wrong.” He said
it will remain wrong because the constitution doesn’t allow it.
But then, he added: “I would want to say this: the law and the Constitution of this country, I would advise the executive and those in charge of the law to make sure that they observe the law.
“What had happened, if you go on to the memory lane it was because the constitution was not being followed and even if you overthrow is also wrong it does not matter whether it’s followed by one person or the other. It was wrong, it’s wrong. I will definitely appeal, urge myself and everyone let us try to abide by the Constitution of this country. That’s one key element that can help to nurture the peace and ensure that Gambia remains one of the most stable and friendly countries. I’ll advise Gambians like myself we desist from the issues of coups and make sure we focus on the development of our country and as it is said here, we call it never again,” he said.
Jobe asks government to pay his pending salaries
According to his testimony, all the soldiers with whom he was arrested with, as coup plotters, had received their salaries covering the period of their arrest in 2006 to their reinstatement after the change of government.
“I am following the government and I am not paid. I have just been reinstated and I am not paid. I know they were paid because they were in full employment at the time of their arrest and I am the only civilian who was in full employment at the time of my arrest, I believe in all fairness, I should be paid. My ordeal will never be over until I am paid.”
Jobe is confident that this government will pay him, but says his continuous follow up on them without having his concerns addressed, reminds him about the past. Jobe is now working at the Gambia petroleum as the director of finance. He was working at the Accountant General’s Office at the time of the incident.