By Momodou Justice Darboe
The presidential candidate of the Gambia Action Party has called on the government to ensure Gambians take ownership of their country’s security.
Gen Lamin Bojang further recommended that the operations of the sub-regional Ecomig forces be terminated forthwith.
Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Bojang argued that the continuous presence of foreign troops in The Gambia three years after the change of government is not only an affront to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country but a demoralizing factor for Gambian men and women in uniform.
“Most of our soldiers are demoralized because of the fact that the executive continues to be protected by foreign troops. No security will allow your executive to be protected by foreigners,” he told The Standard.
According to him, Gambia’s security is currently in the hands of the Senegalese and other foreign troops.
“This is scary and deadly and it has reduced the integrity of our men and women to below zero and it has compromised our sovereignty,” he lamented.
For the GAP leader, it was about time the Barrow government motivated Gambian soldiers by improving their welfare and put them at the vanguard of the country’s security.
Gen Bojang further alleged that the reinstatement of ex-convicts into the Gambia Armed Forces is a reflection of the leadership deficit in the army under former CDS Lt. General Masanneh Kinteh.
Bojang, a former army commander and later a diplomat, said the premature departure of Brigadier Musa Savage and Navy Commodore Sillah Kujabi from the army is an indication of how the army is deeply divided on tribal and ethnic lines as well as other considerations.
“It is only in The Gambia that you will see an ex-convict reinstated into the army. All the rules, regulations and terms of condition all over the world are against reinstatement of ex-convicts in the army.
The fact that ex-convicts are reinstated in the army created a problem for the country because most of the reinstated ex-convicts are from the Mandinka tribe.”
He added: “The security sector reform is coming up with recommendations and one of those recommendations is to retrench soldiers. They alleged that there are Jammeh loyalists still serving in the army. But this is all because of the leadership crisis in the armed forces under the former CDS.”
According to Bojang, the immediate-past chief of defense staff Masanneh Kinteh has not only demoralized Gambian soldiers by allegedly tilting the army towards members of the Mandinka ethnic group but has also failed to improve conditions of service for the soldiers.
GAP leader said he could not understand how ex-convicts, coup plotters, confessed junglers could be reinstated in the army when people like Musa Savage and Commodore Sillah Kujabi were removed on flimsy grounds.
“I am following the way some officers have been retired. For example, Musa Savage was removed abruptly from the army because of his conversation with Fatu Camara in which he expressed his loyalty to Jammeh. Sillah Kujabi was also retired abruptly when ex-convicts, confessed killers are reinstated. The system is marred with lot of irregularities.”
The Standard contacted former CDS Kinteh on the allegations made by Bojang and replied that he believes in and also respects Mr Bojang and his right to form an opinion about him.
“I think he is expressing his opinion and I also know that not everybody will agree with me or my way of doing things. But I have served the army, the only job I know to the best of my ability under the circumstances and the records are there for all to see. I think posterity will be the judge at the end of the day. I don’t want to indulge my self into politics because that has never been my domain but I can certainly state that decisions to remove Brigadier Savage or Sillah Kujabi or to have any soldier back into the army are above my mandate because those are decisions only the Commander-in-Chief who has the powers, can take. And to suggest that I favoured a tribe, well the records are there to show. I think we all owe it to our nation to be careful with our utterances especially when we take to public space because at the end of the day, we all belong to one nation and one family,” Kinteh said.