By Omar Bah
A panel of five court martial judges led by Judge Advocate Amina Saho-Ceesay yesterday acquitted and discharged Brigadier-Generals Ansumana Tamba and Umpa Mendy, who went to Equatorial Guinea with former president Yahya Jammeh.
The military court at the Yundum Barracks said it found the two generals not guilty on charges of deserting the army after leaving for Equatorial Guinea with the former president for a year.
After court-martial delivered the judgment, the families of the discharged soldiers celebrated with tears of joy.
Mendy was the principal protection officer for the former president, while Tamba was the head of the State Guards Battalion.
The two senior officers of the Gambia Armed Forces were charged with desertion contrary to the Gambia Armed Forces Act after they returned unexpectedly in January 2018.
Mendy denied the charge and argued in his defence that his whereabouts were known to the Gambia Armed Forces command. Tamba also told the court that Lt General Saul Badjie instructed him to accompany the former president to exile.
The court which was packed with relatives of the two soldiers said one major decisive factor for desertion that the prosecution could not prove was that the two generals had shown intent to return even before leaving and had communicated it to some people.
The generals had told the court that their names were included in a list of soldiers to accompany former president Jammeh to Equatorial Guinea and the list was brought to them by Sulayman Badjie.
Speaking to journalists after the verdict, General Ansumana Tamba said he remained loyal to The Gambia and regarded his trial as a matter of “destiny”.
“I felt very comfortable from the start because I know the kind of person I am and the love I have for this country. I served in the army for 30 years and I know what it takes to be a good citizen. I am today more ready to serve my nation than ever before. I will urge other officers to continue serving in the interest of the nation without fear or favour,” said Tamba. The court said its ruling will be subjected to confirmation by a panel.