The former Defense Minister of the Junta transitional government, Edward Singhatey, admits to being criminally responsible for taking part in the extra-judicial killings of 11 soldiers on November 11th, 1994 at Yundum and Fajara Barracks.
After the executions of soldiers, who were accused of staging a counter-coup to depose the Junta’s administration, the government gave a cover-up statement indicating that they were killed in a crossfire exchange. However, today Edward disputes that statement, calling it “propaganda”.
On November 11th, Lieutenant Basiru Barrow, Lieutenant Abdoulie “Dot” Faal, Lieutenant Gibril Seye, Sergeant Fafa Nyang, E.M Ceesay, Sergeant Basiru Camara, Buba Jammeh, Alieu Bah, Abdoulie “Achoping” Bah, Lt. Bakary “Nyancho” Manneh, Muhammed Lamin Darboe and Cadet Sillah were all extra-judicially executed in cold-blood.
Prior to embarking on the execution mission, Singhatey told the Commission that the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) had convened a meeting upon learning of a rumored coup to depose their transitional government. He said in a meeting attended by Chairman Yahya Jammeh and his deputy, Sana Sabally, they were given an order to go and “quash” the coup in the making. Singhatey testifies that the order from Jammeh was to ‘take no prisoners.’
Singhatey then led two other soldiers in an advanced team to go and assess the situation at Yundum Barracks. According to him, while at the barracks, he heard gunshots and later learned that Sana and his troops were already on the ground.
He testifies that Basiru Barrow was arrested upon arriving at the barracks.“Basiru Barrow was captured and he was beaten. He was beaten by soldiers who captured him. They were all my subordinates. Subsequently, after realizing that there were more coupists at Fajara Barracks, we had taken a decision to go and attack Fajara Barracks as well”.
But by the time they left Yundum Barracks, Singhatey said they heard an exchange of firing. During this exchange Abdoulie Faal was arrested and taken to Fajara Barracks. “He was beaten. I would not deny that fact”.
He took responsibility for his failure to stop his subordinates during the beating, but justified that it was done out of anger. “Remember these people wanted to kill us and our families”. He agreed that the beating was unlawful.
The incident at Yundum Barracks led to several arrests and subsequent detention of soldiers. He believes that all those captured were beaten including Abdoulie J. Darboe and Mafuji Sonko.
“They were put in cells. I believe it was Dot Faal and Basiru Barrow who were put in the truck and taken along with us towards Fajara Barracks. I am not sure whether they were taken to Mile II, but I know they were brought to Fajara Barracks and then executed. We were divided into three groups. One was led by Captain Sana Sabally, one was led by myself and one was led by…I believe Babucarr Jatta, where you have Peter Singhatey and Yankuba Touray in that group,” he told the Commission.
“When the prisoners were brought [from Mile II to Fajara Barracks], they were lined up and two of them were shot dead by the soldiers who were ordered to shoot them. Council members did not shoot. It was unlawful and it should not have happened”.
The “two prisoners” were confirmed to be Basiru Barrow and Abdoulie “Dot” Faal, whose bodies were later taken back to Yundum Barracks.
In his TRRC appearance, Sana Sabally, who was the commander of the operation, told the Commission that all the Council members had fired including Edward Singhatey. Essa Mendy, another TRRC witness also confirmed this recount. However, Edward denies firing at the two captives. “I was there. I was in the line, but I didn’t shoot. But whether I fired and kill anybody to me is irrelevant. My participation is full and I take full responsibility as if my bullet had killed these two officers,” he confesses.
Regarding the killing of Sergeant Fafa Nyang, he explains that Sana gave an order for him to be killed. “I also instructed them to shoot them and they shot them.”
“I told the soldiers also to execute Sergeant Basiru Camara and E.M Ceesay as ring leaders. I accept that I made that order. The order was implemented. Everything was wrong and it was unjustifiable and illegal, it was a crime. I fully admit. I take full ownership of my actions and I deeply regret it. All of these people as I mentioned were good soldiers”.
After the executions, Council members returned to State House to brief Chairman Jammeh about those who were killed. However, according to Edward, Jammeh ordered for the extension of execution to cover other soldiers who were left out. He said they had to go back to Yundum Barracks to finish the job.
Upon return, he confirmed that Lt. Buba Jammeh, Alieu Bah, Abdoulie “Achoping” Bah, Lt. Bakary “Nyancho” Manneh, Muhammed Lamin Darboe, Cadet Sillah, and Lt. Gibril Saye were taken to a location near Brikama to be executed.
“We took them with the vehicle in the bush, they were knelt down. Sana Sabally had ordered for the soldiers that had accompanied them to line up and open fire. We took them there for that purpose and they were executed under our command and order.”
Edward denies that he personally fired at the victims, adding that, there was no need for officers to fire in the presence of their subordinates. This testimony contradicts that of Sana Sabally’s, who testified that all Council members had fired.
“Well for me, it doesn’t make a difference whether I fired or not. I am equally culpable and I accept my responsibility as everybody else. I deeply apologize. They were good men.”
He said the bodies were later taken to Yundum Barracks where they were buried in a mass grave. According to Singhatey, the killings were in pursuant to the order given by Chairman Jammeh to ‘take no prisoners’.
Continuing with his testimony today, Thursday, October 17th, before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Singhatey offers an apology and seeks forgiveness from the families of his victims.
“I would like to apologize profoundly for my actions. They were wrong, they were illegal. Fafa Nyang was a comrade, a colleague. True, we felt threatened by them and we felt that we would have been executed ourselves. But that does not justify what we did. I wish that we could go back and redress some of these actions, but we cannot.”
“I cannot imagine how the families of Basiru Barrow, Lt. Dot Faal and Sergeant Nyang feel. I can only imagine if it was me how my family and loved ones would have felt if they had lost me. I am sincerely apologizing and I hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive. If they cannot I fully understand because what had happened is despicable. It should not have happened.”
He pointed out that they were under pressure and threat, but quick to add that, these were no excuses as they should have reasoned above that.
“But at that time we could not. We were young, angry and I can only ask them to forgive not only me, but all those who were under my command. It was our fault as a Council and I deeply regret it.”