By Samsudeen Sarr
Having been inundated with series of questions from various sources interested in my opinion over the recent replacement of the Gambia’s Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Masaneh Kinteh with his deputy General Yankuba Drammeh and having given the incident the thorough analysis it deserved, I now feel somewhat comfortable to share my conservative deductions.
Conservative in the sense that the evidence available for a conclusive perspective is still clouded by the indecisiveness of the Barrow government to give us any reasons. When Jammeh did that during his time the country condemned it for its unorthodoxy but it now looks perfectly normal for Barrow to do the same thing, firing high-profile officials without telling the Gambian people why.
Nevertheless, in my effort to rationalize its generated obscurity, the whole incident finally reminded me of the 2016 political impasse and how it played out at the Gambia Embassy in New York from December 2019 to January 2020. That is a subject I feel very passionate to discuss after coming to terms with its background and regrettable outcome in which our ambassadors struck a dumb deal with Senegal that I will ever chastise for its anti-nationalistic spirit. That is why I will this time treat the topic with unrestrained candor disregarding every precaution and identify all characters to avoid unnecessary misinterpretations and misrepresentations.
As always, the decision of President Barrow to exclude his reasons for relieving General Masaneh Kinteh of his CDS appointment and replacing him with his deputy General Yankuba Drammeh, triggered a tsunami of speculations from different concerned Gambians. And unless the president comes up with a reason, the speculators will continue to dilute the facts and creating their own theories.
So like every one else, I intend to share my own hypothesis obtained from the conjectures dovetailed with the undiluted facts for the readers to make their own judgments.
It is factual that President Adama Barrow removed CDS General Masaneh Kinteh, replaced him with Deputy CDS General Yankuba Drammeh and elevated Army Commander General Mamat Cham to the position of Deputy CDS for no official reason whatsoever.
Speculators took it from there, alleging that General Kinteh was a compulsive crook, embroiled in an elaborate corruption, embezzling funds in untold amounts belonging to the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF).
And that the general in order to maintain his lavish lifestyle developed over the past three years would do whatever necessary to coerce his subordinates into compliance and those resisting were either redeployed out of the extortion syndicate or were cast away in the wilderness. Whether that is true or not is left to President Barrow to clarify for us by simply sharing his reasons publicly; however, one may call it coincidence or the timely whistleblowing but a day or two before his dismissal, the US-basedonline Freedom radio made a startling broadcast of corruption allegations against CDS Kinteh derived from seemingly reliable sources familiar with the whole scheme. Consequently, with no reason given for suddenly relieving the CDS of his duties, the radio host’s exposition from North Carolina literally kickstarted the first wave of the corruption allegations thought to be behind the general’s dismissal.
If that is indeed the actual reason for flushing out General Kinteh then appointing and redeploying him to China as Gambia’s ambassador is at best an outrageous coverup of a scandal addressed injudiciously by the government and at worst a disgraceful decision pernicious to Barrow’s credibility as president. Retrospectively, sending him to China in an ambassadorial capacity is evocative of the classic PPP methodology in those days of dealing with white-collar crimes committed by powerful trusted aides.
It was dubbed the “ossusu” agreement where “club members,” in financially-strong government position were at liberty to discreetly steal as much government funds as possible and when caught or after bankrupting their department were instantly redeployed somewhere with limited or no funds to squander until the Gambians forgot. In some cases, those looters would steal enough money to voluntarily quit their government jobs and start private businesses and still patronized by the government. Rather than prosecuting them for their blatant crimes, those thieves were left to enjoy their loots along with real public admiration for their “Allah-given lucks” whereas the honest ones relying on their salaries and playing by the rules were rebuked by society for being “Nyaka-Faida” (aimless).
So as long as President Barrow continues to leave us in the dark on why Gen. Kinteh was sent away every inference pointing to that theory could be termed accurate.
If that one cannot get him to tell us then what about the next?
Does Barrow know about the version attributing the dismissal of General Kinteh to his intention to soon offer the CDS position to General Mamat Cham his long-time best friend and a choice preferred by President Macky Sall? That the Senegalese have been twisting his arm for Cham to takeover the position because of his receptiveness to their annexation stratagem of the Gambia which both Kinteh and Drammeh are unresponsive to the proposition. Again, by coincidence or not, President Barrow was in Dakar with President Macky Sall when General Kinteh was given his dismissal letter. That was cause for suspicion.
Notwithstanding, knowing the two generals very well, Kinteh and Drammeh are like one coin of two sides, tail and head. Signifying that where Kinteh is accused of any kind of theft or resisting Senegalese hegemony Drammeh must be a party to it.
To assert that Deputy CDS Drammeh doesn’t know anything that important affecting the CDS office is tantamount to describing him careless or a very stupid assistant, which I can bet he is not; unless Gen. Drammeh played a direct or indirect role in bringing his boss down, or is just being silly to accept replacing Kinteh without asking for “the reason” his chances under the given circumstances of remaining too long on the job is slim. For if it is about Kinteh stealing army funds, he is a suspect; and if it is about Cham slated for the job, he will lose it to him soon.
To be continued