Ex-Gambia Presidential Aide Admits Ordering Execution of Coup Soldiers

Modou S. Joof

(Bloomberg) -- A former deputy of Gambian ex-President Yahya Jammeh admitted that he ordered the execution of soldiers who took part in a coup four months after the ousted dictator took power more than two decades ago.

Sanna Bairo Sabally, who served as the vice chairman of a military council which brought Jammeh to power in a coup in July 1994, told an inquiry into the former leader’s rule that about 20 soldiers involved in a counter-coup in November that year were killed without due process.

“I accept responsibility because I was the commander,” Sabally told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission Wednesday in the capital, Banjul. “We cut the head off the snake and leave the body.”

The repressive reign of Jammeh was characterized by human-rights violations such as torture, disappearances and forcing HIV sufferers to follow his own treatment methods. He was ousted two years ago when regional leaders sent Senegalese soldiers and Nigerian fighter jets to enforce the election of President Adama Barrow the previous month.

Sabally himself served nine-years in prison until 2004 after being found guilty of wanting to overthrow Jammeh in events that were not related to the counter coup.

Gambia, home to about 2 million people and surrounded by Senegal aside from its access to the Atlantic Ocean, never had a smooth transfer of power. The truth commission started in January and will sit for two years to probe events leading to the events that brought Jammeh to power and the failures of individuals and institutions that allowed for this two-decade dictatorship.

(Adds political context in final paragraph. A previous version of the story corrected the name of Sabally and the date of counter coup in second paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Modou Joof in Banjul at mjoof@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andre Janse van Vuuren at ajansevanvuu@bloomberg.net, Liezel Hill

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