By Omar Bah
The Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces has said that Generals Ansumana Tamba and Umpa Mendy who went into exile with Yahya Jammeh, returned home after falling out with him.
“Our preliminary investigations revealed that the two were dissatisfied with their living conditions and had strained relations with the former president in Equatorial Guinea. But investigations are still ongoing and the two are cooperative in helping the investigators to establish the facts behind their unexpected return,” General Masanneh Kinteh told journalists Saturday.
Speaking further at the Officers Mess in Kotu, Kinteh said the return of the generals unnoticed was a conspicuous breach of airport security.
“We have acknowledged this lapse at the National Security Council and took full responsibility as a council for the lack of knowledge about the return of these high persons of security interest and the way and manner were processed on arrival,” he stated.
He said an independent inquiry has been set up by the government to look into “this grave security lapse” and proffer solutions to avoid a recurrence.
“On our part as the GAF, the two generals are for the moment presumed to be deserters after having stayed away from the armed forces for over a year. We will equally brief the media on the outcome of the investigations once completed,” he added.
CDS Kinteh said so far, nothing relating to their presence or return points to a threat of national security. “Although investigations are still ongoing on a broader scope, there have been several lessons learnt from this episode,” he added.
Relation with the Presidency
Kinteh said some people are of the view that “the president should just go and visit” the military barracks and talk to the soldiers.
“Well, probably that is another way of making that showmanship that you are in charge, but sometimes it can also send a wrong message. What I can assure you is that it is my responsibility to connect the presidency to the armed forces and that is a work in progress,” he said.
He said they want to develop a relationship where there would not be direct political interference into the affairs of the armed forces.
Kinteh said in a situation where the president “is putting his nose into every barrack and speaking to every soldier, that can break down the chain of command.”
“We have seen it happen in the past regime. The president was undermining the chief of defence staff by speaking to his subordinates or units under the purview of the chief of defence staff without his knowledge.
Those things can undermine the chain of command. And we want an armed forces that is not personalised but remains as an institution where everybody is given space,” he stressed.
He said the president is aware of everything happening in the armed forces and his permission is obtained first before anything can be done on a daily basis on issues of the armed forces.
Relation with civilians
General Kinteh said the general membership of the armed forces love The Gambia and are “ready to take a bullet to protect its people”.
“The love we have for the country motivated the majority of us to join the armed forces and that spirit is still in the armed forces… At our level, the ones who have been known to have been involved in rights violations and are in the country were dealt with. The ones who have gone out of the country, we are seeing how best we can bring them to justice.”