Two senior military officers of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), Colonel Essa Tamba and Captain Pharing Sanyang have testified before a military court martial against group of soldiers accused of plotting to overthrow the country’s President Adama Barrow.
Captain Pharing Sanyang in his evidence revealed a secret WhatsApp group that some of the alleged coup plotters belonged to known as ‘Ajamat’ with code names like Tiger, Lion, Eagle and ‘Esamai’, which means Tiger in Jola.
Captain Sanyang told the panel about the investigations on a Facebook photo of a pickup loaded with Timber with narratives to tarnished the image of Lieutenant Colonel Essa Tamba, who was the then Commanding Officer of the Guards Battalion at the Fajara Barracks. He informed that there was an instruction from the Defense Headquarters to set up a board of enquiry of which he was a member.
He told the panel that one of the accused, Corporal Emmanuel Jassey confessed to the investigators that he was the one who took photos on the orders of his duty officer Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju (3rd Accused) who said he wanted to send them to his sister. He said Lieutenant Jarju admitted to the investigators that he ordered Corporal Jassey to take the photos. He adduced that Lieutenant Jarju told investigators that Sergeant Yusupha Jatta alias ‘Yorro’ posted the photos on Facebook.
When asked about the reason for posting the photo, Sanyang told the court that Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju told investigators that he wanted to tarnish the image of Lieutenant Colonel Essa Tamba who shifted his loyalty from the former government to the coalition government.
“He said the former president was the one who sponsored his higher education,” Captain Pharing Sanyang told court.
“He said Lieutenant Colonel Tamba has betrayed the former president who sponsored his education that he said is worth tarnishing his image,” he added.
Later, Sanyang said Lieutenant Jarju apologized, saying it was the work of Satan.
Testifying further, Captain Sanyang told a crowded court room that Sergeant Yusupha Jatta alias ‘Yorro’ who is currently at large has admitted his involvement, but said the rest of the photos were supposed to be sent by Sergeant Bubacarr Sanneh. He said Corporal Sulayman Sanyang was also called for questioning but denied his involvement or knowledge of it. He added that the investigators allegedly warned him about the consequence of deviating the truth after knowing it.
Captain Pharing Sanyang said Sergeant Babucarr Sanneh ( 4th Accused) has confessed to investigators that he took photos through the windows of the Credit Union at Fajara Barracks.
“He [Babucarr Sanneh] said he sent the photos to Sulayman Shyngle Nyassi through Facebook,” he asserted.
The witness said the mobile phones of the accused soldiers were taken for further investigations.
“We found a WhatsApp group called ‘Ajamat’ which means true friends in Jola,” he said.
The senior military officer named accused soldiers Corporal Sulayman Sanyang and Lance Corporal Abba Badjie as members to the group, while others preferred to use code names.
He said that they claimed that the group was only for friendly purpose and they do meet at Buffer Zone to discuss.
Captain Sanyang told the court that the investigators have discovered several WhatsApp deleted text messages but the phones were handed to experts at Africell as the information collected were sent to the defense headquarters.
Colonel Essa Tamba of the Defense Headquarters who was the former Commanding Officer of the Guards Battalion at the Fajara Barracks also testified before the military court martial.
Colonel Tamba said he could vividly remember a Facebook photo of pickup truck with timber logs in June 2017. He said he was informed by his daughter when he logged on to Facebook he saw the post.
“The narrative on the Facebook post alleged that I was parading myself as a national hero for the ousting of the former president Yahya Jammeh that I am now a broke person because I have misused the D500, 000 that the coalition government bribed me and now I resort to log selling,” Colonel Essa Tamba told the court.
“I was completely shocked,” he added.
Tamba said he later summoned a general briefing with the battalion as he was quite convinced the person who posted the narrative on Facebook must be someone in their midst or within the barracks.
“I felt I was insulted as the image I have craved for 35 years of service has been brought to disrepute by mere false allegations,” Colonel Tamba asserted.
Immediately after the briefing, he said Corporal Emmanuel Jassey sought for his audience who confessed to him about taking the photos on the orders of his duty officer Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju (3rd accused).
He said Corporal Jassey confided in him that the photos were taken and handed over to the accused who gave him an Africell number to forward the photos to. He added that as soon as Corporal Jassey left his office, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju came to apologize, saying he was the one who sent the photos to an online paper.
“Few days later, I realised he was uncomfortable within the barracks,” he asserted.
Colonel Tamba said he then wrote to the Republican National Guards Headquarters to redeployed him (3rd accused) pending an investigation but instructions were given for him to set up an enquiry.
The next prosecution witness to appear before court was Corporal Emmanuel Jassey who alleged that the 3rd accused Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju asked him to take photos of the pickup truck and send it to his sister’s WhatsApp number. He said the profile of Sergeant Yusupha Jatta alias ‘Yorro’ surfaced on the Africell number where the photo was sent. He said the 3rd accused asked him to delete the number which he obliged as his senior officer.
The prosecution witnesses were cross-examined by the defense lawyer Sheriff K Jobe.
Justice Sainabou Ceesay Wadda, Judge Advocate earlier denied the bail application of the accused soldiers, Corporal Ebrima Jallow and Sambujang Bojang, saying the discretion of bail lies with the court and should be given judiciously as the accused are standing trial along with others who are facing treason. She said they might tamper with the witnesses and evidences in the trial. She added that the appellants have committed offenses to the GAF Act and should be tried by such.
Meanwhile, the case was adjourned to Friday, December 1, 2017.