(JollofNews) – Going through photos of her days as a happily married lady with her husband and two year-old daughter, Sainabou Faal fought to hold back tears.
While most Gambian women in the US are living the American dream and looks forward to returning home every evening to have quality time with their husbands and children, Mrs Faal is busy campaigning for the release of her husband, Papa Faal, who is currently detained in a federal prison.
A former US Air Force personnel, who has also served in the US Army in Afghanistan, Papa Faal had sacrificed everything he had in the US where he lived for 23 years by returning to his native Gambia last month with the intentions of “restoring democracy and improve the lives of the Gambian people” through a military coup.
The West African country with 1.8 million people is governed for the last year by a tyrant who claims to have found a cure for Aids and other diseases. He loves drawing international condemnation by lashing out at gays and lesbians and subjecting political opponents to torture and forcing them to confess to sedition on television. His regime is accused of committing serious rights abuses including arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance.
Armed with night-vision goggles, body armour and semi-automatic rifles bought at shops in the US, hidden beneath clothes and shipped in barrels to the Gambia, Faal and his colleagues thought they had “up to 160 members of the local Gambian military” on their side and that the president’s guards wouldn’t risk their lives to defend him. They also thought that “they would be able to take over the country without having to kill any Gambians. But a gun battle erupted.
Authorities in the Gambia say the attackers were divided into two groups and Faal and three of his colleagues tried to enter the fortified palace via the rear gate on Marina Parade. They said Faal positioned a heavy machine gun by the entrance of the Accident and Emergency Unit of Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital and repeatedly fired rounds at the gate. An attempt to ram the gate using a rented vehicle failed and four members of group were killed while one was captured.
Watching his colleagues die, Faal took to his heel and changed into new clothes in a nearby building before taking a ferry to neighbouring Senegal, where he sought out the US embassy in Dakar. He was returned to the US and was formally arrested by FBI agents.
In an interview with WCCO, part of CBS Television Stations, Faal’s wife said he was standing up for democracy, and should not be in custody.
“My husband has sacrificed everything to help people in his homeland, who are being oppressed by the government,” she said. “He doesn’t like oppression, that’s one of the reasons he joined the military. I’m praying for him every single day.”
Meanwhile, Faal’s cousin, Sankung Jawara, described him as a man who has always put others before himself. He expressed hopes that what is happening to his cousin will shed light on what is happening in the Gambia.
“We just cannot sit and have other people fight our fight for us, so we feel it necessary that we have to do something,” he said.
“The American government is supporting the rebels in Syria because of the atrocities the Syrian government is doing to these people. They are helping out so they can actually take over their country and be independent. We don’t have that in the Gambia.”
Gambian activists in the US and other parts of the world have petition the US government to release him. But US Attorney General Eric Holder says conspiring to overthrow a foreign government is against the law those responsible must be held accountable.