By Omar Bah
Until now, the reasons behind the dismissal of the Minister of Defence, Sheikh Omar Faye, from the Gambia National Army on 4th January 1991, were believed to be his refusal to return to Liberia to complete a peacekeeping mission.
But in a letter signed by then army commander, Colonel Ndow Njie and seen by The Standard, Faye who is today the defense minister, was dismissed for refusing to take over as commander at the Farafenni barracks after he was told he was no longer retuning to Liberia.
“The reason for your dismissal is your disobedience of a lawful command (Section 48 GNA Act) and subsequent insubordinate behavior towards your superior officer (Section 50 GNA Act) in my office on 2nd January 1991. These offences are grounds for court martial and subsequent imprisonment and dismissal with disgrace. In view, however, of your previous service to the army and the nation you are merely to be dismissed and discharged,” the letter dated 28 February 1991, read.
Meanwhile, in the explanatory letter detailing why then Captain Faye was dismissed, Colonel J Shaw and Captain B Jatta said Faye had returned from Monrovia suffering from suspected hepatitis on 15th
November, 1990 and was admitted at the Westfield Clinic and later discharged after he was diagnosed with chronic malaria.
“He then reported at Army Headquarters, Yundum. During this visit, he presented a medical card from Major Njie, the army’s doctor which showed that he was on a 6-week sick leave. This meant that he was to report for duty towards the latter part of December, 1991. At this point in time, the plans were to start the rotation of the company in January, 1991 and that officers at the Ecomog HQ, would not be rotated. I informed Faye that he would not be returning to Monrovia and that since he would be the most senior officer in the battalion available, he would assume command of the battalion when he reported for duty.
“He [Faye] reported for duty on the 26th December, 1990 (Boxing Day). By this date, it had been decided to recall Ag Col MO Gaye and Major Jobe from Ecomog. Since Major Jobe was senior to Faye, I informed him [Faye] when he reported for duty that he was no longer going to assume command of the battalion but would instead be taking over Farafenni camp from Captain Ceesay who would be going to Ecomog. The reasons for the change were then explained to the camp later in the afternoon. The case was reviewed between the Army Commander, Commander of BATT and myself but when Faye was called in to hear from him, he was nowhere to be found either in the camp or at his official quarters. It was then that the army commander said he had no option but to file an official report with a recommendation for disciplinary action to be taken. By virtue of the subject’s status as commissioned officer – decision on disciplinary matters against him lay only with the commander-in-chief.
“To summarise, the case against Faye is a serious case of gross disobedience against the authority of a superior officer in a disciplined force and should be treated as such. In terms of the provisions of the Armed Forces Act, there is adequate provision to deal with such cases in order to ensure that discipline and order to deal with such cases in order to ensure that discipline and order are maintained in our forces. These provisions provide for trial by court martial with possible imprisonment followed by dismissal with disgrace for a substantive case of this nature.
“The army commander decided to resort to a lesser and more humane form of punishment, and this I support, having regard to ex-Captain Faye’s past record and his recent creditable service with Ecomog in Liberia.
“Under the ordinary circumstances, his case would have gone straight to a court martial, and indeed the army commander is empowered by law to have had him put under custody pending such court martial, but visor counsel advised otherwise having regard to the extenuating circumstances of ex-captain Faye’s past record.”
The Defence permanent secretary at the time, SAR Njai also added in the same missive: “To be candid, when all things are considered, the ex-captain Faye has got off lightly on this case. The considered view of this ministry is that the original decision to have ex-captain Faye discharged from the army should still stand…”