By Omar Bah
The Gambia Armed Forces has told journalists at a two-day interface meeting that it has put forward strong measures to discourage the tribalisation or regionalisation of the military.
The two-day event hosted at the Officer’s Mess is intended to provide a unique platform for the military to engage the media in highlighting issues in order to enhance their understanding.
Former president Yahya Jammeh was accused of tribalizing the army in an attempt to prolong his stay in power.
But GAF said they are trying to move away from the past or what used to be obtained under the former regime where a particular tribe or region will have the monopoly of the army.
Delivering on GAF Organisational Structure, Colonel Musa Trawally said the army is non-political now and there is no more political interference in the military.
“We also have recruitment processes to avoid having one tribe or region dominating the army like it used to obtain in the past. So, there are processes to ensure that our recruitments follow due process. The CDS has also committed himself to ensure that the armed forces is non-political and stays out of all political activities or affiliation.
“Before now, you could see the CDS and other senior military officers attending political rallies but if you were observing the last presidential election, you will realise that that has not happened. So really, we are doing everything possible to move away from the past including annually going round to all military installations to discuss with our officers about their role and the need for them to respect ethical guidelines,” Colonel Krubally said.
Colonel Krubally said the army is cognisant of the fact that some of the officers who were used by the former regime are people who cannot even differentiate between A and B.
“We also have the political will from the executive because the CDS had informed the president about his plan to ensure the military remains non-political and he (president) has shown the political will. The military is very independent now and we hope it stays like that,” he said.
The Minister of Defence Sering Modou Faye said the media and the army need each other in delivering their duties. “The military has come to realise that it needs the media to be able to effectively execute its duties,” Minister Faye said. He said a healthy media and military relationship requires each side understanding and respecting the norms and professional values of the other. “A free media and non-partisan military has become paramount and a necessary element of a mature liberal democracy. It is then incumbent on each to vigorously defend the distinctive professional norms that contribute to their efficacy,” he said.
The interface is coordinated by the Center for Research and Police Development, CRPD with funding from the African Transitional Justice Legacy Fund, ATJLF and the Gambia Armed Forces. The one-year project is focusing on security sector governance and capacity building aspects of security institutions.
Sait Matty Jaw of CRPD said the center was established to support the transformation of Gambia into a democratic society.
“For us, building relationships between security institutions and particularly between the military and the civilian population will go a long way in strengthening our democracy but also ensuring that the civilian population take ownership of their security institutions,” he said.
The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Mamut Cham said: “In the process of moving the country’s agenda forward, there has to be constructive communication between the Armed Forces and the media. The public institutions should also open up to the public as means of transparency and accountability.”
He said though most of the activities of the army are of sensitive national security, there is need for a reasonable disclosure so that the public will understand what they do to keep them safe.
“The peace and security of the country will always be our utmost preoccupation,” he said.