The December 30th coup in focus

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By Lamin Njie

It was supposed to be the moment that would finally see Yahya Jammeh yanked out of power, the moment that would finally afford Gambians a new start. And the moment that The Gambia would look to the future with optimism.

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The plot to overthrow Yahya Jammeh five years ago is one that continues to retain huge Hollywood importance. Only that this was not a Holywood movie. It was a real event that involved former soldiers slipping back into military gear and venturing into what would become the most dangerous military enterprise ever.

On 30 December 2014, a group of dissident Gambians, most of them with military persuasion launched an early morning attack on State House while President Yahya Jammeh was out of the country. The attack was quickly repelled. Three died, four escaped and one was arrested. The next day, the government issued a statement saying it was a terrorist attack.

Lamin Sanneh was the ringleader of the coup. The 36-year-old was a former commander of State Guard. He had fled to the United States in 2013 after he fell out with Jammeh. He then returned two years later on a mission that was not only meant to settle personal scores but also to save a country that has been held hostage by a brutal dictatorship. He was among the three people who were killed.

The coup took place while President Jammeh was out of the country. He was reportedly in Dubai and when he returned, he invited GRTS and Daily Observer to State House and told their reporters the attackers were terrorists backed by foreign powers.

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It was not known at the time where the Jammeh government buried the bodies of Lamin Sanneh, Njaga Jagne and Jaja Nyass. It was in 2017 when the Barrow administration found out they were buried in a forest in Foni. The bodies were then exhumed as part of their investigation into the human rights violations and abuses that occurred during the 22 years rule of former President Jammeh. In January this year, the bodies were handed over to their families at a ceremony held at the ministry of justice in Banjul.

The fight to end the Jammeh dictatorship took different forms. The December 30th coup was one form. But the fact that this coup was planned all the way in United States and Europe makes it a unique event in the history of The Gambia. After the coup, Jammeh bragged that he would rule for one billion years only to receive the shock of his life at the polls in December 2016. He now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

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