Six years ago, a group of Gambian diasporans armed with high-grade military equipment stormed the Banjul based presidential palace in an attempt to topple the then President Yahya Jammeh led regime. This incident which occurred in the early hours of December 30th, 2014 with numerous gunfire got residents of the capital city gripped with fear.
The attack was led by Papa Faal, a US army trained grandson of late Sir Dawda K Jawara, the first President of The Republic of The Gambia for 30 years until he was undemocratically overthrown by army lieutenant Yahya Jammeh in 1994.
The 46-year old Faal and his co-conspirators were reportedly financed by a wealthy Gambian-American businessman, Cherno Njie who according to the plan was supposed to take over from Jammeh if their mission succeeded. With Cherno’s sponsorship, Mr. Faal bought eight semi-automatic rifles and shipped them to The Gambia ahead of the assault team.
The attackers’ initial operational plan was to ambush Jammeh in one of his highly guarded convoys with the assumption that, once a bullet is fired, the guards will desert the president. Unfortunately for them, upon their arrival in Banjul, they got information that Jammeh left the country and was aware of their presence.
It was reported that the US state department tipped off Jammeh through Senegal about the planned coup. However, Faal and his team decided to adopt a contingency plan by storming the house, convinced that the state guard soldiers wouldn’t resist them.
However, the Gambian security men chose to defend the presidential palace and overwhelmed the attackers. Four of Papa’s men lost their lives, and one of them was a US army captain. Meters away from the gunfire exchange and at his hiding position, Papa Faal could see one of his men run out of ammunition, driving bravely towards the palace wall as bullets penetrate his windshield.
Upon realizing that his men had been overpowered, Papa Faal managed to escape from the scene and made his way to Senegal leaving behind his fallen comrades. “Well, how I escaped would remain a mystery, for now, perhaps my grandchildren would narrate the story someday,” Papa said in an interview as he laughed.
In Senegal, Papa went straight to the US embassy and requested for a safe passage back to the states, “I need to get back to the United States. The Gambians are looking for me” he told embassy officials.
He later returned to the United States and was charged by the U.S government for violating a U.S foreign policy. According to US prosecutors, Faal and other Gambian-American co-conspirators violated the Neutrality Act of 1794, which prohibited Americans from waging acts of war on other countries.
He was sentenced to three years of probation and Mr. Njie, the financier of the mission got one year in jail. Mr. Njie would later accuse Faal of cutting a deal with prosecutors and blamed him for his sentence.
Papa Faal moved back to The Gambia and joined his grandfather’s former political party that once ruled the Gambia for almost 3 decades. However, he was not happy with the party’s leadership so decided to form his own political party and is currently running to be the next president of The Gambia.
Do you think this history will affect Faal’s presidential bid?