EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Former Vice President and Minister of Defence of the former AFPRC junta, Edward Singhateh said the 1994 military coup that disposed the government of late former president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was staged to “rectify the problems.”
Their decision ushered in a twenty-two-year rule that was marked by human right violations, including killing, torture, arbitrary arrests and detention without trials under the watch of exiled former president Yahya Jammeh.
In July 2017, President Adama Barrow’s Coalition Government initiated a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC), to unearth the wrongs that were perpetrated by the military government between July 1994 to December 2016, as a parameter for transitional justice.
Edward, who metamorphosed into the civilian sphere after twelve years as cabinet figure under the former government, gained university admission and graduate into the legal field where he served up the rank of Principal Magistrate. His latest achievement is the service as Vice President of the sub-regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) since 2016.
In the early stages of his testimony before the Commission on Wednesday, Singhateh disclosed that he was the architect of the 1994 military takeover, having drawn the attack plan on the Statehouse. “I drew the plan,” he said, “but when the initial plan to arrest the president at the airport on the night of 21st July failed, I ran home and burnt the plan.”
He enumerated a host of reasons that gave rise to the army’s determination to unseat the then legally constituted government.
He recalled that when the army affairs was in the hands of the Nigerian forces, the welfare of the soldiers were not well taken care of, noting that the food that was provided to them at the time was not good especially when the senior officers were out of the camp.
He recalled of an incident where ‘poisonous’ food was being served to them which led to soldiers having ‘diarrhea and had to go to the beach to defecate.’ At that juncture, he testified that he was compelled to use his last cash at hand to get them medication. “So the feeding really deteriorated; we were given rotten food,” he said.
He said there was a cultural clash between the Nigerian command and that of The Gambia such that soldiers could be punished for what is considered minor issues such as fraternising with the junior ranks. “This is one of the examples of the clash of cultures we had,” he explained.
Edward Singhateh narrated that for the reason to the looming takeover to gain weight, the junta decided to factor in general social welfare of people across the country. They had in a list that there was limited access to healthcare services, education, and transport infrastructure across the country.
“We needed more hospitals, more schools, and more roads and whatever other countries are enjoying.
In his words, “With all these problems, we decided to step in and rectify the problem even if it means losing our lives.”
Challenged on why the army must take the law into their hands, Singhateh likened the situation as that of a compound where everybody has a responsibility. “We felt, if nobody is going to do it, we had to do it, even though we knew it was illegal. That’s why everything we did was clandestine.”
He however clarified that it was not the mindset of the Gambia National Army (GNA) that it was its duty to step in where civilians didn’t.