By Omar Bah
General Ousman Bargie, a former chief of the Gambia Armed Forces has said that he prefers the West African troops to stay little longer even though he is 100% sure that the Gambian army is capable of maintaining peace in the country when they leave.
“I believe under the leadership of Masanneh Kinteh Gambia is safe but it is important that the Ecomig stays until the end of the security sector reform,” General Bargie said.
“Ecomig has advantages and disadvantages but to me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages; for example before Ecomig came to the Gambia we were doing patrols along the borders day and night but with the coming of Ecomig they also do daily patrols, meaning GAF is engaged in less patrols and in the process they will be saving money and the same applies to the human resources. When it comes to economic benefits the Ecomig is not paid by the Gambia government but they do their shopping for their families here and that money is here. And perhaps more importantly with Ecomig in the country it will be materially impossible for any internal or external force to think of attacking the Gambia. This is a plus too. There are people who feel the Ecomig should leave but for me they can stay a bit longer because as we speak the political climate in the country is not very conducive. Somebody may come out to demonstrate just to destabilize the peace in the country.”
Gaf attitude towards Barrow during impasse
General Bargie also discussed why as chief of the Gambia Armed Forces he could not provide security for the then President-elect Adama Barrow during the political impasse.
“I could not provide security to Barrow at the time knowing the soldiers that are at my disposal. I was not sure whether I could trust anyone of them because Jammeh was unpredictable and knowing very well the kind of person he is it would have been extremely dangerous to gamble with him. This is why when Jammeh left I decided to remove all the soldiers from the State House and asked the IGP to deploy the paramilitary there,” he said in a Standard exclusive Sunday.
He added that nobody could tell who Jammeh was talking to among the soldiers during the impasse and he was equally confused whether it would be safe for him to provide security for Barrow. “I made it clear that no military personnel should be close to Barrow at that time,” he asserted.
General Bargie further said that it would have been stupid for him to give an armed soldier instruction to guide Barrow when Jammeh was still around. “I may trust that particular soldier but I would not be in a position to know what he was thinking and who is he talking to and if something happened to Barrow I would have been held responsible. So I was not even comfortable to send my own son to guide him,” he said.
Bargie, who was succeeded by Masanneh Kinteh in March 2017, added: “ In fact for the same reason of not trusting anyone or climate of uncertainty during that time, I myself at one point asked my bodyguards to stop escorting me except when I am going on official functions because I never wanted them to be hurt while protecting me.”
But according to General Bargie the main problem was that the State Guard was operating independently and was not taking commands from him.
“They do things unknowing to me,” he said.
Quizzed on whether he informed Barrow about the prevailing circumstances, Bargie replied: “Barrow did not ask me why I didn’t provide him with security. If he had asked me I would have explained my reasons. I spoke with him several times but he did not ask me but I was very confident with the people who were guiding him because I worked with them. They were ex-military officers.”
He urged President Barrow to avoid creating sections in the military like Jammeh did, adding that the military is in better hands compared to when he was there.
“To be honest I senior Masanneh Kinteh but he is more intelligent than me,” he asserted.