The first Vice Chairman of the former ruling Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council, Sana B. Sabally has blamed the 22 July, 1994 military coup to discontent and frustration in the Gambia Armed Forces prior to the coup.
In a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission testimony Wednesday, Sabally accused the Sir Dawda Jawara administration for disrespecting the Gambian soldiers by empowering the Nigerian army that was brought into the country to take military leadership.
Sabally testified that the Nigerian soldiers who were expected to prepare their Gambian counterparts were over empowered with commanding positions, something the Gambian soldiers couldn’t fathom.
“I never accepted it deep in my heart and I believe my colleagues too didn’t accept it. The government either didn’t know what they were doing or were disrespecting the army.”
He gave poor rating to the impact of the training offered by the Nigerians in terms of operational aspect. He however credited the Nigerians for uplifting the army to professional standards in terms of administration. Sabally told the TRRC that Gambian soldiers had mixed feelings about the commanding roles given to Nigerians. He said that in correcting the situation, the whole system at the time had to be revamped totally, including dislodging the regime.
“We also had junior soldiers who always brought their complaints and we couldn’t continue to lie to them,” he said.
Sabally also told the commission that the alleged spate of corruption in the government at the time also contributed to the anger in the army which resulted to the coup. Asked by the Lead Counsel Essa Faal if the coup d’etat wasn’t undemocratic, Sabally argued that if the soldiers had not done the coup they would have failed the nation.
Confronted by Faal about the military’s lack of role in politics, Sabally argued: “If you exclude the army from politics then what are we? We are the citizens of the country. We went with responsibilities. It was a national duty we were carrying out.”
He admitted however that that it was illegal to stage a coup. “Nowhere in the constitution is coup allowed. But I can tell you if you want to find any good administration, go to the military. What is in the constitution is a threat so that no one attempts it.”
Sabally maintained that the July 1994 coup was necessary. “We interpreted our action as the way we wanted to help our nation. It could be wrong but we have our reasons to do it. We were not angry. If we were angry there would have been bloodshed. We were responsible officers.”