By Alagie Manneh
The Gambia army has insisted that morale among its serving members remain high despite the widely-held perception that it has become demoralised under President Barrow owing to unfavourable conditions of service.
This was believed to have led to mass voluntary resignations of soldiers from the army.
At an Ecowas summit last September, President Adama Barrow appealed for the Ecomig mission, which was nearing completion of its operations, to continue for another year, saying it was a stabilising presence in the country.
However, not all Gambians agree that the mission should stay, with many concluding its continuing presence was dispiriting the Gambian army.
But Army PRO Major Lamin K Sanyang, said reports of high attrition of personnel from the army are “a lie”.
“Morale and hope remain high in the army,” he told The Standard yesterday evening.
Debunking rumours of mass resignations, he explained: “What many Gambians don’t understand is that this trend of perceived mass resignations is nothing new, especially when a particular intake completes its terms of service. In this case, it is mostly members of Intake 30 who are leaving the army. They can because they joined some 12 years ago and have now completed their mandate with us, and so they can leave. Even for those leaving, the percentage is less than 10. Intake 30 comprised 1,500, out of that, only 107 have so far left. Therefore, it would be wrong on this basis alone, for anyone to say there is a mass resignation because of poor conditions or the perception that we are on the back burner.”
Major Sanyang said like any other profession, people in the Gambia Armed Forces come and go. “The reasons for their leaving can vary. But the bottom line is, it is a voluntary armed force,” he emphasised.
In June, the army chief, Yakuba Drammeh, made a conducted tour of military sites in the country, and Major Sanyang said that has “greatly contributed” to lifting morale and expectations in the force.
“Because of that, they have high hopes for the future and showed inclination to continue serving their country. In fact, after the June tour, we have seen remarkable improvements in terms of discipline and morale in the army. It raised a lot of hopes and expectations,” he said.
Major Sanyang said the army has no qualms regarding the continuing presence of Ecomig forces in the country. “It was a decision by the Ecowas heads of state and government, made possible by the 2016 impasse. We believe they are still doing their job within their mandate,” he added.
He called on Gambians, most of whom remain disgruntled over the presence of the forces in the country to continue to exercise patience. “We crave their indulgence to be patient.”
The army has not been recruiting since 2017 when the new government of President Barrow placed a moratorium on it.
The PRO said it could lead to adverse effects, and urged the government to review the policy.
“We are of the view that government should review the moratorium. Our members are leaving but they are not being replaced.”