Gambia Former junta leader admits to illegal killings

Sana Sabally and Sadibou Hydara
Sana Sabally and Sadibou Hydara

A former member of Gambia’s military junta that seized power in a bloodless coup on July 22, 1994 confessed Wednesday to directing the executions of soldiers accused of being the ringleaders of a foiled counter-coup in November that year.

Sanna Sabally admitted his involvement before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission investigating the human rights violations of former President Yahya Jammeh.

“I accept responsibility because I was the commander,” said Sabally.

On Nov. 11, 1994, around a dozen soldiers were arrested for organizing a counter-coup. They were reportedly lined up and shot point blank.

Sabally told the commission that they executed the soldiers because it was a battle for survival, but he also admitted that the orders to kill them came from Jammeh.

When asked by a member of the commission whether the Geneva Convention should have been applied regarding their treatment of the counter-coup plotters, Sabally said the international standard has no relevance in theaters of war.

His appearance is seen as a major victory for the commission.

Sabally was the second most high-profile member of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council, the military government that was formed after the coup.

He was also the most feared person during the early days of the July 22 military takeover. His convoy had reportedly tortured people and shot at their car tires for not leaving the road quickly as he passed.

Sabally admitted responsibility to nine such incidents of torture that occurred under his command and apologized to the victims.

One victim was Alo Bah, a female food vendor who was reportedly shot by a guard of Sabally’s convoy. Sabally openly apologized to Bah before the commission.