With Omar Wally
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Lamin Gano served in several key positions in the Gambia Armed Forces. He was probably the only senior military officer to voluntarily resign from the Army during the APRC regime.
Later Gano made name as a blogger, writing on peace, security and politics and actively commentating on Gambian politics on social media.
In this issue of Bantaba, anchor Omar Wally talks to Lamin Gano about his soldiering, his political affiliation and related matters.
Give us an outline of your career as a soldier.
I served for only sixteen years from 1997 to 2013. During that period, I held a number of appointments including Public Relations Officer, Aide de Camp to former president Yahya Jammeh, Military Assistant to two Chiefs of Defence Staff and others. I also served in two international peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Sudan respectively.
While serving in the military, were you a supporter of the APRC party?
Not really. Like the majority of the soldiers, I was simply a security personnel doing his job. And about two years of that job happened to be the protection of former President Jammeh.
You were a PDOIS supporter by the time you enlisted into the army. So you were no totally apolitical.
Yeah that is right. As a matter of fact, PDOIS was the only party that I ever voted for in my whole life [at that time].
Did you openly show that you were a PDOIS supporter while serving as ADC to Jammeh?
The only time I openly declared my support to the PDOIS was during my recruitment process while undergoing screening at the former National Intelligence Agency. Then I learnt in a hard way that it was a taboo for a security personnel to express his or her support for an opposition party.
Now you are no longer in the military, which political party do you belong to?
The Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC). In fact, I was among the first Gambians in the diaspora to endorse the GDC, within the first month of its establishment.
Why the GDC? Is it because you are a Fula like the leader and the majority of members of the party?
Not really. I would have supported the NRP if that was the case. As a graduate of conflict studies and a practitioner and advocate of peace and security, I was attracted to the GDC based on its campaign platform of peace, unity, reconciliation and forgiveness. You may agree with me that throughout the campaign period, the GDC was consistently talking about togetherness, national development and peace. These are areas that I am very passionate about.
Throughout the 16 years you served in the Gambia Armed Forces, did you ever harm, abuse or torture anyone or witness any major human rights violations?
On the contrary, I stood up for the principles of truth and justice. In fact, in 2013, I found myself in a situation in which the only way I could have continued with my job was to compromise these principles but instead, I chose to sacrifice my own career by resigning my presidential commission. I resigned in defence of the truth and justice and to protect my integrity. I therefore have absolutely no regrets and I cherish with pride every single moment of my service career. I believe that I left behind a distinguished and impeccable service record.
During your tenure as aide de camp, did you ever say no to the former president when given an order to execute a wrongful order or illegal activity?
The former president was a man with many sides. He had different ways of dealing with different people. Fortunately for me, we had a professional and respectful relationship. I have never witnessed any human rights violations and I have never even been present where such was being discussed not to talk of me participating in harming people.
How about after your tenure at the State House when you were redeployed to other duties, did you ever receive and say no to any illegal order from Jammeh?
Yes I did. In 2013, I was appointed as a president of a court martial and instructed to terminate the careers of some military personnel and to send them to prison. That was when I opted to resign from the military altogether instead of presiding over what I perceived to be an illegal court martial.
Was the Gambia Armed Forces’ professionalism compromised under Jammeh?
Of course it was. Just like what he did to almost all the institutions of the country, Jammeh personalised The Gambia Armed Forces as if it belonged to him. And by so doing, he suppressed the normal growth of the military in order for him to be able to maintain full control over it. In addition to performing its constitutional mandate of providing security, The Gambia’s security services in general have the ability and willpower to fulfil other social, economic and national developmental roles if Jammeh had provided them with the required professional oversight and support.
Knowing that Jammeh had compromised the army why didn’t you resign earlier than 2013?
I joined the military to serve The Gambia and her people and not Jammeh. Former President Jammeh compromised not only the military but most of, if not all the other sectors of the state. It was therefore neither possible nor was it to the interest of our country for all the civil servants and security personnel to resign due to Jammeh’s poor governance. In fact, if I were not appointed to serve as the president of that court martial, I may not have resigned at all. The vast majority of the security service personnel are loyal only to the country and the people. They neither aided nor abetted Jammeh in any wrongdoings and did not participate in any attempt to overthrow his government which is a treasonable offence according to the Constitution.
What advice do you have for soldiers current serving members of the Armed Forces?
I have a lot of confidence, respect and admiration for the members of the Gambia Armed Forces. For me, they are the most patriotic and dedicated soldiers on this planet. In fact, if it were not for their professionalism and restraint, they would have splintered into factions during the political impasse thereby engulfing our country in a bloodbath. My advice to them is to maintain their loyalty to country, to continue serving the people of The Gambia and to remain obedient to the government of the day through the president and commander-in-chief.