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Monday, October 2, 2023

In response to the defamatory attack on my character by the GAF

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By Samsudeen Sarr

I have just perused a forwarded newspaper article originating from the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), authored by their PRO Lt. Colonel L. K. Sanyang. I find this article to be malicious and uncalled for. Utilizing my appearance and brief statements on a Kerr Fatou network talk show I participated in a few weeks ago as a pretext to unjustly assail my reputation is an unwarranted blow below the belt.

First and foremost, I did not participate in the talk show to condemn the admirable GAF, as insinuated. My purpose was to reaffirm my stance that the proposed ECOWAS military intervention, aimed at reversing the military takeover in Niger on July 26, 2023, is an unattainable endeavor that is destined to remain unfulfilled. It has been nearly a month since the mission was initiated, and regrettably, no substantial progress has been made, including securing the necessary funding for the operation.

When queried about my reservations regarding the GAF’s involvement in this international undertaking, I referred to the unfortunate experiences of the Gambia National Army (GNA) during their mission in Liberia in 1990. This mission, as widely believed by scholars, played a role in facilitating the deplorable military coup against the democratically elected civilian government of the PPP in 1994. These documented facts are expounded upon in various publications, including my 2007 book titled “Coup d’état by the Gambia National Army,” published by the US-based Xlibris. Furthermore, I wish to address the assertion that I later disavowed the contents of my book, branding it as a collection of falsehoods. I challenge anyone to furnish evidence of such a statement ever escaping my lips. Regrettably, this claim appears to stem from a smear campaign initiated against me by the late Pa Nderry Mbai (may he rest in peace) of the Freedom Radio and Newspaper, a North Carolina-based outlet. In September 2014, following my reconciliation with former President Jammeh in New York City, an event witnessed by Gambian businessman Amadou Samba, his press secretary Lamin Manga, and his secretary general Karl Bayo, this baseless allegation was concocted and disseminated to a susceptible audience.

Such baseless allegations from the GAF’s command only serve to underscore a palpable frustration, likely ignited by my straightforwardness and indisputable expertise on the matter at hand. Allow me to assure you that I have dedicated a significant portion of my adult life to the study of such concepts. I was among the initial critics of the ECOWAS’ proposed military intervention in Niger, articulating comprehensively all the reasons why this venture was destined for futility and failure.

In conclusion, I am steadfast in my conviction that the GAF’s portrayal of my intentions and views is grossly misconstrued, driven by the aforementioned frustration and perhaps an aversion to my insightful comprehension of the subject matter. I remain resolute in my commitment to clarity and accuracy in these discussions, fortified by a lifetime of dedicated study and analysis.

A rational response would have entailed an explanation detailing the methodology, rationale, and timeline of the proposed intervention. Convincing both myself and the readers about the viability of the intervention would have been a more productive approach, rather than belittling my qualifications and raising unwarranted doubts about my capabilities as a soldier. It’s possible that Lt. Colonel Sanyang, the PRO, may not have been privy to the events and circumstances that unfolded during the Liberian conflict, including the factors that prevented my initial deployment. However, it’s worth noting that there are numerous active serving members, particularly those in the upper echelons of command, who possess a thorough understanding of these events.

The assertion that my non-deployment was rooted in cowardice, often insinuating that I intentionally wounded myself to avoid deployment, seems to stem from a repetitive narrative. It’s crucial to emphasize that individuals in high-ranking positions are well aware of the factual account that I accidentally shot myself on May 4, 1988 – a full two years and four months before the initial deployment to Liberia in 1990. Regrettably, this genuine incident has been unjustly distorted and employed as a pretext to unjustly accuse me of evading deployment.

Consider the ethical stance that any commander worldwide would adopt – leading their troops with pride and integrity on foreign missions, and ensuring that fallen soldiers are accorded the respect of being repatriated to their home country for proper burial. The poignant story of Corporal Lamin Bojang and Private Sama Jawo, both KIA in Monrovia, serves as a stark example. Their remains were regrettably abandoned until 1995 when I personally undertook the mission to retrieve and repatriate them, following the 1994 coup.

My intention here isn’t to boast or mount a defense against baseless allegations regarding my conduct as the commander of the GNA from 1998 to 1999. It’s important to underscore that the central issue at hand transcends that particular aspect.

However, during my discussion on the GAF’s promotion concerns, I believe it was crucial to delve further into the prevailing belief that promotions of Generals during the APRC era were primarily at the discretion of the president, rather than adhering to established promotion protocols rooted in conventional norms. This has prompted widespread grievances among Gambians, underscoring the necessity for an overhaul of the GAF’s promotion procedures. It’s heartening to acknowledge any improvements made in this area, which should ideally align with the desired standards, a crucial aspect that should find a place within the long-anticipated Security Sector Reform (SSR) to address this specific issue. Kudos are in order if indeed the promotion process has now been elevated to meet these sought-after benchmarks.

However, shortly after the change of government in 2017, we witnessed a discretionary promotion of a general by the commander-in-chief that mirrored the very issue we sought to address. I won’t delve into the details here, but I am prepared to do so if required.

As previously mentioned, I did not have the opportunity during the event to extensively discuss the matter. It’s worth noting that prior to 2017, there were widespread misconceptions, both domestically and internationally, that the GAF harbored MFDC rebels—a notion that has since been definitively disproven.

Additionally, I wish to emphasize that I will not be drawn into debates concerning my qualifications, whether military or civilian, nor will I engage in discussions about my contributions to our nation over my fourteen-year tenure as a soldier. Instead, I am on the verge of publishing a memoir that encapsulates my experiences from childhood to the year 2023, spanning both my civilian and military involvements.

While I did not hold the position of battalion commander but that of army commander, and while I did not participate in the Liberian intervention of 1990, I did, however, lead the GNA peacekeeping contingent to Bissau in 1998.

To those interested in gauging my operational proficiency as a well educated officer, I extend an invitation: provide me with a mission, allocate the necessary resources and personnel for any theater of war, and I shall construct the requisite operational strategy.

Incidentally, sir, it’s unfortunate to characterize my behavior at the show as infantile. What could be considered more immature than drawing comparisons between me and my fellow retired officers such as Colonels Baboucarr Jatta, Pa Modou Ann, and Lawrence Jarra? Especially when there is no relevance to involve them in an issue unrelated to their concerns. These individuals are my colleagues, with whom I share a mutual respect. They are not the type to be swayed by the unsubstantiated tactic of arbitrarily elevating their qualifications and experiences over mine. Our familiarity with each other is thorough and comprehensive.

Last but not the least, was the intention behind the message to caution me about the importance of being mindful regarding my spoken and written words, hinged on my former military oath? I believe not.

Reciprocity in respect stands as a fundamental principle. It’s unreasonable to level accusations of criminality against me without any supporting evidence and then anticipate my silence, merely due to the discomfort of those in authority. This approach has never defined who Samsudeen Sarr is, and this remains unequivocal.

Let’s set the record straight. I’ve never contested the contents of my book, nor have I ever shied away from facing potentially challenging situations in the line of duty. Should you possess the evidence in question, I implore you to present it. My identity encompasses that of a writer and scholar, fortified by international recognition, affording me the privilege to share my viewpoints, which reverberate globally.

Efforts to stifle my voice through threats and intimidation are ultimately futile endeavors, squandering both time and energy.

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