By Lamin Cham
The Gambia Armed Forces, GAF, has confirmed that four soldiers have been arrested in connection with an ongoing investigation into a WhatsApp chat group that has audio recordings, which the army said are, among other things mutinous.
A statement from the GAF headquarters did not name the arrested soldiers but said two of them are being held directly in connection with this chat group while the other two are arrested after been allegedly complicit in the escape of a third suspected member of the chat group.
The Army also revealed that it has convened a board of inquiry to look into the circumstances.
The statement did not mention the widespread rumour of the arrest of some soldiers reported to have been planning to plot against an unnamed VIP.
The full statement is reproduced below:
“Some members of the Gambia Armed Forces are being investigated for being part of a WhatsApp chat group that has audio recordings that are apparently engaged in alleged mutinous acts, defamatory, scandalous and unethical. Members of the Gambia Armed Forces have a Code of Conduct and Rules and Regulations that governed us. As soldiers once we accept to serve in the armed forces we surrender certain privileges and rights. This is done to ensure that command and control is made easier.
This is why upon enlistment, every soldier signs a form called “DECLARATION BY SOLDEIRS ON ENLISTMENT” as enshrined in the Gambia Armed Forces Act 1985, Part 1, Section 22. The soldiers make a solemn and sincere declaration, which reads, “I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the President of the Republic of the Gambia and his successor and the Government of the Gambia. I will also obey all Orders, both written and verbal, given to me by the Officers placed over me and subject myself to all Acts, Regulations and Standing Orders relating to the Gambia Armed Forces now in force or which may from time to time be brought into force for so long as I shall serve.
“Furthermore, it is also incumbent upon every serving member of the Gambia Armed Forces to sign the Official Secret Act, which barred every serving member/or upon retirement not to make any unauthorised disclosure in material published in a speech, lecture or radio or television broadcast, or in press or in book form. The declaration goes as follows that ‘I understand that this law covers in material published in a speech, lecture or radio or television broadcast, or in press or in book form.
I am aware that I should not divulge any information gained by me as a result of my appointment to any unauthorised person, either orally or in writing, without the previous officials sanction in writing of my head of Department. I understand also that I am liable to be prosecuted if I publish without official sanction any information I may acquire in the course of my tenure of an official appointment (unless it has already officially been made public) or retain without official sanction any sketch plan, model, article, note or official documents which are no longer needed for my official duties and that these provisions apply not only during my the period of my appointment but also my appointment has ceased or I have retired.’
“Consequently, based on these provisions the Gambia Armed Forces has convened a Board of Inquiry to look into circumstances surrounding the whole episode. They are to investigate and determine who are the member’s of the group. They are also to find out the content of the messages whether they have any implications to jeopardise national security and to come up with recommendations.
“The CDS wishes to assure the general public that the Gambia Armed Forces remains focused, intact, vigilant and alert to continue to deliver the noble services and keep our beloved motherland secure and peaceful. We will continue to bring about the needed reform and structuring programs that are required to make the Gambia Armed Forces more responsive to the needs and aspirations of Gambians especially in this new democratic dispensation. The Gambia Armed Forces will continue to embark on training programs, threat assessment and analysis both internally and externally to ensure a more robust and professional force that would be able to counter any threats both within and outside the Gambia.
“The Gambia Armed Forces condemn in the strongest term this alleged act by some disgruntled elements of the Gambia Armed Forces. Some of the alleged culprits are already helping our team of investigators.
“While we remain steadfast in the execution of our noble constitutional mandate, please accept on behalf of the Gambia Armed Forces our unalloyed loyalty to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Government and people of the Gambia at all times.”