The Junta Power Struggle: Edward Explains Why Sana Sabally was Falsely Victimized and Jailed
Edward Singhatey has admitted to the rift that existed among the top three junta leaders, Chairman Yahya Jammeh, Vice Chairman Sana B. Sabally and himself as Defense Minister in the aftermath of military takeover in 1994.
He testified on Monday before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), that Jammeh was fearful of his deputy, Sana whom he suspected of planning to stage a coup against him. In order to prevent the situation he [Jammeh] thought would happen, he arrested Sana and jailed him to secure his position.
The Junta Interior Minister, Sadibou Hydara was also punished for the same reason before he eventually died in custody after succumbing to gruesome torture sessions in 1995.
Explaining his own rift with Sana which happened before the coup allegation, Edward accused Sana of threatening his family in his absence. According to him, he reported the matter to Chairman Jammeh and Sana apologized thereafter. Although he accepted the apology, he told the commission last week that their relationship was never normal again.
Sana and Edward are the original conceivers and master planners of the coup – which Jammeh became leader of due to seniority even though he was an invitee into the plan.
In his TRRC testimony, Edward described his relationship with Sana before the coup as cordial, saying they were best friends and close protectors to each other.
Giving an account on the circumstances leading to the arrest of the two, Edward recalled a day Jammeh called him to his office, indicating to him that he got proof to show that Sana and Sadibou were preparing to stage a coup against him. According to Edward, the said proof was that Jammeh called Sana on a telecom device to invite him to his office, but Sana did not turn-up swiftly enough. He said Jammeh earlier told him that if he calls Sana, he wouldn’t be quick to come and he will engage in conversation with Sadibou – possibly on how to remove him from power. In his explanation, this was what happened when Jammeh called Sana to appear at his office and it became the sole proof he and Jammeh acted on to arrest the two.
Singhatey said they agreed to arrest the two when they approached the Chairman’s office, which is upstairs at the State House. He said the plan was executed under his command by organizing and instructing their orderlies to have the two arrested.
“I came out with my pistol and I told Sana Sabally to halt. He was in front and they halted. And immediately, the other orderlies behind came in, seized them, seized their arms, I believe. As soon as Sana Sabally was seized, I took his pistol. I took his pistol out of its holster and I found out that there was a round in the chamber and the hammer was cocked on…so it was ready to fire.” Singhateh testified.
Singhatey told the TRRC that it was abnormal for Sana to have his weapon in a ready state to visit the Chairman’s office. When Sana testified earlier before the TRRC, he indicated that he too was suspicious about Edward and Jammeh.
Upon their arrest, they were taken downstairs where they also arrested their orderlies before boarding them into waiting pick-up vehicles and transporting them to the Mile II Prisons.
“As far as I know, they were taken to Mile II prisons and they were eventually taken to court and tried. Sana Sabally was convicted and Sadibou Hydara passed away,” he testified.
“I don’t know anything about the torture of Sana Sabally. I didn’t expect him to be tortured. What I did expect is maybe he will be beaten here and there but not really tortured to that extent. I never conceived that he would have been tortured on the scale on which he testified here.”
When confronted as to whether Jammeh’s proof was enough, he admitted that it was not. “Apart from the proof of telephone conversation which does not hold much water, definitely I agree.”
“What convinced me was the mere fact that he was going to a head of state with a weapon ready to fire. At the point of arrest, if Sana Sabally was not armed, if his weapon was in a normal state, I most likely would have apologized to him, returned him his weapon and told Jammeh that this is not happening.”
He said Jammeh has said a lot of things about the arrest of Sana and Sadibou that did not happen, including the allegation that Sana pointed a pistol at him and it didn’t fire. “That story was completely false.”
Singhatey admitted that the case of Sana was a travesty of justice. “Even though I am fully aware that the charges were trumped-up and were wrong and the conviction was based on a report that was completely fabricated, but the mere fact that Sana Sabally had these violent tendencies at least at the back of my mind, I thought that it could have been true.”
However, he apologized for his role in Sana and Sadibou’s arrest and maltreatment. “I deeply regret my involvement in the arrest of Sana Sabally. If I could take it back I would.”
The TRRC received other testimonies stating that Edward led the escorting team of Sana to Mile II following their arrest. But he denied. “I did not even know which cell he was put in. I did not take him to Mile II. I am extremely sorry. From hearing some parts of his testimony because I could not listen to everything due to the graphic description of what happened to him. I could not imagine the pain and suffering he had been through. I am just trying to find words to tell him how much I regret what happened. I am really sorry and I wish I could tell him in person. I just don’t know how to begin.”
Meanwhile, Singhatey also admitted and apologized for playing a role in the torture of political opponents including PPP and UDP supporters during the two-year transitional period.