The Secretary General of the opposition People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism has written that “Even though the insurgency was contained during the early hours of the morning, the officials were completely silent in the morning of the 30th of December. This gave rise to suspense in the public view of things. The contradictory information regarding the whereabouts of the President without any statement issued by the state media regarding his coming made some to believe that the insurgents were in control of State House.”
Below is Halifa Sallah’s statement on the attempted coup.
PDOIS ON THE ARMED INSURRECTION
PDOIS STATEMENT ON THE 30TH DECEMBER 2014 ARMED INSURRECTION
ISSUED BY HALIFA SALLAH ON BEHALF OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE 4TH January 2015
NEITHER THE BALLOT NOR THE BULLET CHANGED THE FIRST REPUBLIC FOR 30 YEARS
NEITHER THE BALLOT NOR THE BULLET HAS CHANGED THE SECOND REPUBLIC FOR 20 YEARS
HOW TO PREVENT HISTORY FROM REPEATING ITSELF?
On 30th December 2014 the people within the vicinity of Banjul woke up to the sound of firing of weapons during the early hours of the morning. The PDOIS leadership, through information passed on to Foroyaa while the firing was taking place, was alerted to the prevailing developments. It was not clear who the insurgents were.
During the early hours of the morning it became clear from the soldiers who were in control of Independence drive and who were asking the residents to stay indoors that the loyalist forces were in control of the state house and the City. This was not evident to many people in the country. Hence the rumours spread that a coup had taken place and that the state house had been taken over by the coup makers.
In the morning, Banjul was sealed by the loyalist forces. One could not get in or move out of Banjul.
We expected to hear a comment from the Vice President over the National media but none came. Since the President travels without proclaiming in the Gazette the appointment of an Acting President we monitored the international media to find out where he was and what he had to say. No direct statement came from the executive in those decisive hours.
In the same vein, no organised insurgency takes place without a spokesperson issuing a statement regarding the objective of their mission during the time of combat. We monitored the airwaves but received no information from the insurgents regarding their mission.
The public was completely kept in the dark, both by the state and the insurgents. They did not know what and what not to believe.
Banks and other businesses were closed in Banjul and KMC, even though no state of emergency was declared. All businesses and social activity in the city came to a halt. Rumours grew wings in the countryside and abroad.
To satisfy ourselves regarding the military and security situation we monitored all security and military activities throughout the country and came to the conclusion that there was no state of alert anywhere else other than Banjul and to a small extent, Farafenni camp.
News began to come out in drips on the nature of the insurgency and the profile of the Combatants. The name of Lt. Col. Lamin Sanneh, a former state guard Commander, featured prominently as the leader of the insurgents. Four people were reported to have been killed and one injured. It was also rumoured that they were mainly ex military men who were resident in the US and the UK.
As people and transports began to move freely in places other than Banjul it was apparent that the insurgency was history and what was necessary was to know the details and the implications for the executive, in particular and the people at large.
NEITHER THE MILITARY NOR THE CABINET SAID A WORD
Even though the insurgency was contained during the early hours of the morning, the officials were completely silent in the morning of the 30th of December. This gave rise to suspense in the public view of things. The contradictory information regarding the whereabouts of the President without any statement issued by the state media regarding his coming made some to believe that the insurgents were in control of State House. It is therefore no surprise why some online media continued to drum up support for the insurgents and called on the population to come to their support.
The whole morning of 30th December 2014 was devoted to speculation by many. It was not clear to most whether the insurgency had succeeded or failed. The Gambia became a Nation of citizens in the waiting, not knowing what would come next.
Apparently, by 1PM someone within the state apparatus considered it prudent to issue a statement to claim that the insurgency was contained and that people should go about their business. The public was more interested in knowing about the whereabouts of the President. Without his appearance on Gambian soil, few could be convinced that the insurgency had been defeated.
The information vacuum which followed the 1PM News increased the anxiety of the population and attracted the curiosity of the international media. They conducted many interviews which did not touch on the true state of affairs in the country and could not give an accurate picture of events as they were at their moment of happening.
Night fell on the 30th of December leaving the people of the Gambia with an uneasy feeling regarding the ultimate consequences of events. Even though it was announced that people could go about their normal business, the people of Banjul who were grounded in their homes did not know whether the fighting had come to an end and why their movement was being restricted.
WHO WAS IN CHARGE OF THE COUNRTY?
The fact that the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic was completely cut off from his troops, and had no constitutionally appointed person acting in his place raised many questions as to who was in charge of the country before the President’s return. Was it the Vice President or the Chief of Defense staff who was in charge? The constitutional implications are overwhelming, thus begging the question whether a president should leave the country without appointing an Acting President.
On 31st December, at about 1AM, we received information that a motorcade moving with rapid speed without siren had passed and was moving towards Banjul. The 1PM news indicated the presence of the President in the country and conveyed his New-Year message.
In the afternoon, some claimed that they had seen his motorcade in town. In the evening of 31st December, 2014, the President delivered his New Year Message which made no reference to the incident.
PUTTING THE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE TOGETHER
On 1st January, 2015, in an interview over the national media, the President displayed the sophisticated automatic weapons and explosives which had been smuggled into the country? He accused the US and the UK of complicity with the insurgents.
According to reports, a captured insurgent had led the intelligence officers to a container smuggled into The Gambia and the contents disguised as second hand clothing.
THE END RESULT
Three of the leaders are confirmed dead, namely, Ex Lt Colonel Lamin Sanneh, Njagga Jagne and Alhaji Nyassi. Hence the insurgency cannot be given any tribal connotation.
There are varying reports on the number of people captured and those who fled to Guinea Bissau or back to the US.
The UN, the US and Senegal condemned the armed insurgency and it is understood that charges have been preferred against Cherno Njie and Papa Faal for allegedly smuggling arms into the Gambia and participating in the armed attack. It is claimed that Cherno Njie would have been the interim President.
RESTORING THE AUTHORITY OF THE EXECUTIVE
Solidarity marches were being organised. It first started with the law enforcement, security and military units. This was followed by that of the public servants, the National Assembly members and other sympathisers.
Check points were relaxed and then restored in Banjul, Kanifing, Essau and Soma. The arrests of family members of suspects erode the trend towards a semblance of normalcy. The Stone Age doctrine of collective punishment based on blood ties undermines justice and entrenches impunity.
THE HAZARDS OF THE PRESIDENCY
If a President of the US could be assassinated, then no president in the world is immune to assassination. Suffice it to say , a President depends entirely on the security and military apparatus of a state for personal security. A coup d’etat occurs when the security forces which protect the power of the executive turn against it and deny it protection. In that case the executive has to flee to seek asylum. In sophisticated armies where there are well defined command and control structures, no coup could occur unless the majority of battalion, platoon and company commanders are in agreement. In the same vein, there are two poles of power in a Sovereign Republic, that is, the power of the state and that of the people. A people could rise up against an executive and leave the security apparatus with no option but to commit genocide or turn against the executive.
Hence, the ways and means to reduce the hazards of the presidency is to derive authority from the will of the people and exercise that authority to promote their welfare and ensure that the military and security establishments are protective of the people.
HOW DID THE INSURGENTS HOPE TO EFFECT CHANGE?
In classic military science, insurgency could only hope to be successful if linked to mass uprising, or mass desertion and disintegration of the regular army. In the case of the 30th December insurgency, the public was completely out of the picture and there was no sign that the regular army had experienced any mass desertion in favour of the insurgency.
It is therefore possible that the insurgents miscalculated in thinking that once they struck, there would be spontaneous desertion from the regular army. The Farafenni attackers suffered the same fate. They took over the Farafenni camp and maintained it for a long period of time, hoping that the youth of Baddibu, which was then seen as an opposition stronghold, would join them and receive quick training to take control of the weapons. They ended up having weapons under their control without fighters to carry the arms. They had to ultimately flee without achieving their mission. The 30th December insurgency suffered the same fate.
THE WAY FORWARD
First and foremost, magnanimity is expected from the side of the state rather than revenge. A coroner’s inquest is expected to handle the case of the insurgents who have been killed and their bodies given to their families for burial.
Family members who are arrested should be released. There should be no purging or arrest of family members.
Gambians abroad and at home need to go back to the drawing board and debate on the way forward for the country. How then are we to avoid a repetition of history?
HOW TO AVOID A REPETITION OF HISTORY
A crisis may be defused or inflamed. The best way to defuse a crisis is to engage in impact assessment and manage its after effects. The larger the impact on the larger society and the more people are drawn into the crisis the more difficult its management and containment becomes. This is why international standards are established in restricting accountability to those who are the architects of events and who bear the greatest responsibility for its perpetration and outcome.
Hence the executive and its agents should not involve those who are circumstantially connected with the event of 30th December 2014. They should focus on the epicentre rather than the periphery.
Since no state of emergency is declared no one should be detained for more than 72 hours without being charged or released. This is the mature way of dealing with the issue without resorting to impunity which nurtures more desperation and impunity on the side of victims.
DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE NATION
What has happened should compel the state and the people to take stock.
It should be clear to all that power in a sovereign Republic lies in the military and security apparatus, on one hand and the people, on the other. The Regular army and security forces do not constitute a homogenous group. They are made of people with diverse interests who are bound by command and control structures and who do not easily capitulate during a surprise attack from outside of their ranks. Soldiers break out of these command control structures to carry out mutinies at great risks when they have their own grievances. Most mutinies result in combat between factions, classified as loyal and mutinous forces, as had happened in Mali. A Government crumbles only if the mutinous forces over power the loyalist forces.
Hence any attempt to take over executive mansions by a dozen people as had happened on 30th December 2014 without the complicity of those who are in charge of the command and control structures of armies or the support of a foreign military power is a suicidal adventure which is undertaken only when one’s aim is to assassinate a person or destroy a target and die like any suicide bomber. Such tactics do not lead to the liberation of the masses or change of systems. When they fail perpetrators who are captured often give evidence which could be corroborated to have every detail of their strategies and tactics. This leads to their demoralisation, especially when the weaker elements become state witnesses to get lenient treatment.
For 30 years neither the ballot nor the bullet could effect change of executive power in the first Republic. When change eventually came by the bullet in 1994 executive power remained entrenched for another 20 years.
The fundamental lesson is that when power is taken for the people it is always usurped as the property of the grabbers. The people are never encouraged to take ownership; on the contrary, they are always expected to owe allegiance and obedience to the grabbers of power.
The real task now is to guide the people to be their own saviours. Power belongs to them and government derived from their consent must be accountable and responsive to their demand for liberty, dignity and prosperity or be removed without difficulty or delay.
The international community has acknowledged the inevitability of government by popular consent. This is why all democratic governments are irreconcilable to unconstitutional takeover of power as well as unconstitutional governance by elected governments.
The December 30th event is a teacher. No one has monopoly over violence and impunity but injecting a BokaHaram syndrome in Gambian youths will not solve the problem of impunity. It will only lead to more impunity on both sides of the political spectrum as revenge killings take place in rapid succession. Blood should no longer defile the sacred soil of our homeland .We must no longer allow any Gambian youth to be the fodder of the barrel of the gun. It is the Gambian people who could save the nation and its youth from violence and blood bath. If the vast majority of Gambians decisively cast their votes for change no one would be able to steal their votes if the person voted for vows to be the sacrificial lamb for our democratic future. Such a person must be ready to be imprisoned or assassinated and still call on the people in advance to settle scores at the ballot box rather than by the bullet.
We wish to assure the sincere and the passionate that PDOIS could be counted on as a force which could unify the nation and heal its wounds. There should be no despair.
We are currently sensitising the people to dismiss the notion that the people do not have the capacity to change the country through the ballot box.
We have the plan to build a self reliant and people centred economy which would combine the most extensive Public /Private; Public/ Cooperative and Private /Cooperative partnerships which would generate employment and general prosperity for all.
We will do prospecting to discover our mineral and gas reserves to accumulate sovereign national wealth for investment in the productive base of our economy.
We intend to utilise resources from Public enterprises and mining sectors to establish a cooperative banking system which would provide seeds, fertiliser and farming implements to family farms and gardens to eradicate the poverty of rural families and give support to community farms and other income generating projects to finance village development programmes.
We intend to link agricultural production with processing so that our groundnuts would be transformed into oil, Soap and butter, while the shells into cardboard and cooking materials. We will facilitate the processing of our milk into cheese, butter, yogurt and other products; our mangoes and other fruits into juice, and our fish into other products to promote self reliance and generate income.
We will maintain a well paid professional army, police and security force. The disciplined forces shall have the role to defend the sovereignty and integrity of the nation and the people. Each shall be given knowledge and skill to be able to function after performing one’s service.
All former members of the disciplined force shall serve as reservists who would be employed or engaged in self employment with the assistance of the state. Ex- Navy servicemen and women would be shareholders of fishing vessels provided by cooperative banks, or work for ship and wharf building companies to promote river transport. Those in the regular forces could become part of an engineering corps to serve as builders.
In short, we are in a position to offer a better life to all sectors of society, civilians or the disciplined forces.
We are also providing an end to the monarchical presidency by proposing a two four-year term limit for the presidency. We are proposing constitutional, legal and institutional measures that would ensure that the executive could be criticised, scrutinised and retrained by an unrestricted and unfettered media and a people organised into civil associations and interest groups aimed at ensuring that their concerns are heard and addressed.
The Diaspora should now identify those who have convincing messages and are capable of awakening the people and galvanise around them to build a conscious mass movement for electoral change.
The Diaspora may best focus on three fundamental issues as the agenda which could be utilised to unify all Gambians abroad who have the nation and people at heart. They should advocate for the enfranchisement of the Diaspora, electoral reform and the upholding of fundamental rights and freedoms at home.
The trend of international politics reveals that the members of the international community would exercise the same resolve in combating violation of human rights, and disregard of constitutions by those who govern as they do against unconstitutional change of government.
Hence hope should still be kept alive that sooner or later, the Gambia will have a political leadership which would be able to build a country which will accommodate every citizen of this land and guarantee to all liberty, dignity and prosperity. This is the verdict of history and it is irrevocable