By Alagie Manneh
The high command of the Gambia Armed Forces has reached out to some of its retirees in an effort to persuade them out of a planned protest scheduled for yesterday.
According to information obtained by The Standard, more than a hundred retirees of the army’s Intake 30 reportedly planned a peaceful protest march to demand for “unpaid retirement benefits.”
Freedom Newspaper reported on Sunday that the ex-soldiers intended to march to the army headquarters in Banjul and broach their worry to the army command.
When the protest rumours first surfaced, an anonymous source was quoted by Freedom Newspaper online intimating that the planned protest followed repeated demands from the army retirees.
But the deputy army spokesperson, Captain Malick Sanyang said the GAF command has already “taken steps” to address the contention, forestalling any planned protest.
“They have since reached out to the concerned soldiers,” he told The Standard.
He said it is just “a reasonable number of soldiers” – 135 out of the 1500 of Intake-30, who opted out and were planning to protest.
“The Gambia Armed Forces is not a conscript armed forces,” he said. “People join on their own free will. Some of the soldiers [of Intake 30] that may have been affected are those who decided to re-enlist and after a brief time, decided to discharge again from the army. So, given that peculiar situation, it becomes quite natural that those who decided to be discharged immediately after the end of their service would receive their dues first. Naturally, it would take time for those of them who months after re-enlisting, now changed their mind and want to discharge.”
He said the ex-soldiers could have engaged the finance offices to settle their quarrels.
“The Gambia Armed Forces high command wasted no time to reach out to engage some of those members who have an intention to go ahead with such a move because it is absolutely unnecessary,” he said.
The captain could not specify the exact number of retirees who have received their dues, however, he said the army will release a detailed statement on the issue as soon as possible.
“There would be no need for the protest to hold,” Captain Sanyang stated.