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City of Banjul
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Gambia urgently needs the D700M paid to Ecomig to fight the coronavirus pandemic

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By Samsudeen Sarr

I just finished watching another interview given by the Gambia Defense Minister Honorable Sheikh Omar Faye to the Fatu Network where he clarified what can be accepted as the official reason for removing Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Masaneh Kinteh from office. I must commend Mr. Omar Wally for bringing the subject up.

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According to Honorable Faye, Gen. Kinteh was more or less removed to avoid his overstay in the position. I know that most conventional armies including Senegal have, as part of their terms and conditions of appointments, term limits for CDS positions. As important as that policy is, I think Faye should have brought along the document for better enlightenment on when it was enacted because as far as I can recollect nothing like that was in the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF).

Besides, as congenial as the reason is, the government could have prevented all the negative speculations by publicly sharing the understandable reason. But I don’t want to push it any further than that. Unless the Barrow government comes out with a different version I will take the minister’s as the ultimate purpose of removing and redeploying Kinteh.

The rewarding appointments fit the narrative.
Mr. Wally should try to invite Gen. Kinteh to bolster Faye’s assertion, closing the gossip pipeline once and for all.
Anyway, what bothers me most is the ineffectual attitude of the government towards the coronavirus pandemic.

Telling us that the health minister has all the answers was laughable.
In fact I want to believe that the concern expressed by myriad of Gambians especially Mr. Tombong Saidy on his Facebook page last Saturday, March 14, 2020, illustrating progressive pointers to the Barrow government on what ought to be done in the Gambia about the pervasive virus was what awoken them from their indifference to the crisis. In his short but powerful message Mr. Saidy lamented over the gravity of the deadly virus globally and underscored how media outlets and concerned government agencies all over the world were not only sensitizing their nationals but were aggressively battling the pandemic like a war time mission when the Gambians were still kept in the dark as if nothing was happening beyond our borders.

Mr. Saidy went further to recommend the need for the government to consider shutting down our airspace and borders like the whole world was doing and adopt more stringent measure of monitoring and if necessary quarantining potentially infected visitors from abroad.

I briefly commented below the text saying that we have to ask for clearance from Senegal or from President Macky Sall, our de facto head of state for permissible remedies.
Then a couple of days ago I watched the iconic PDOIS politician Honorable Sedia Jatta frustratingly confronting his colleagues, members of the National Assembly, articulating similar sentiments, asking why they were even in the House dealing with relatively trivial matters when they should all be at their constituencies addressing the health needs of their people, in the wake of the pandemic.

He grieved over why after Senegal had closed their air space the Gambia government was still allowing flights into the country essentially using the Gambia as a corridor by Senegalese immigrants transiting mainly from Europe on their way back home. Hon. Jatta, perhaps from recognizing the disease as posing the most existential threat to human civilization since the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic reported to have killed roughly 50 million people worldwide including over 600, 000 Americans suggested the urgent employment of members of our security forces, especially the army. The world over, nations are falling back to the effective employment of their national armies thanks to their disciplinary modus operandi of working together in fighting and winning wars. America has now invoked war time production measures to combat the spreading killer virus, warning everybody that the worse scenario is yet to come.

New York has warned all residents on non-essential duties to stay at home.
Obviously the internal and external pressures exerted on the Gambia government to act before it was too late contribute in getting them started.

However, the feeble and ineffective actions adopted by the Barrow government have already resulted in a dismal failure to quarantine the first passengers of a flight from Europe to the Gambia. Reports on the initiative of the government to isolate this first group of passengers in the county by a Gambia Experience flight simply exposed the unpreparedness of the government for primetime. This could further be confirmed in a video footage trending online showing a chaotic scene at Yundum Airport with arriving passengers resisting government officials trying to forcefully move them to an isolation area.

I don’t blame them after looking at how unprofessional and ill-prepared the agents were.
An effective quarantine method applied everywhere requires vigorous endeavor of complementary forces properly drilled into perfecting their duties that will not in the process compromise the health of the participants.

Italy has been reported to have lost 11 doctors exposed to the virus while attending infected patients, one of whom was blamed for not suiting up properly.
The Gambia government’s approach doesn’t show any compliance to the basic protocol in quarantining potential carriers.

The operation should involve the bus drivers transporting them from the airport to the disembarkation location, the luggage carriers, the immigration officials, the medical personnel, government officials and any additional security agents, all wearing protective gears and well trained for the job; yes, the medical personnel will conduct preliminary body temperature test of the arriving guests, the immigration officials processing their documents; the security personnel escorting them safely to the lodging place; and the government officials providing logistical supplies and making sure that the place is healthy, habitable and comfortable for patients in the given period. The vehicle or buses will need disinfection after dropping off visitors.

However from what I saw and know now nothing remotely resembling the above stated measures was in place but instead the first batch according to witnesses were paraded in an annoying and time-wasting manner before being dumped in an inhabitable hotel. The people they were told to have been assigned to meet them never showed up or probably deliberately avoided them for their personal safety. It is like government is not really taking the whole situation seriously. That is indeed what happens when people entrusted with major responsibilities don’t have a clue about what they are doing.
To be continued

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