By Omar Bah
The Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces has said that some military officers under the former regime of Yahya Jammeh were hired to commit extrajudicial killings.
Speaking at a high level stakeholders meeting organised by Article 19 on promoting access to information in The Gambia, Masanneh Kinteh said this among many other things compromised the responsibility of the armed forces.
He said the Constitution clearly states that the duty of the armed forces is to respect the fundamental rights and freedom of others.
He said: “I have read the 1997 Constitution but I have not seen any institution that is charged with the responsibility to defend the freedom and rights of persons, other than the armed forces.
“Paradoxically, the state over the past two decades due to the manner the armed forces was politicised and personalised, this noble institution through a selective few of its members, left much to be desired in terms of its adherence to this constitutional provision.”
He said a section of the military was recruited by the former government as “notorious groups to perpetuate heinous crimes, including arbitrary arrest, torture, extrajudicial killings, detention without trial and disappearance without trace.”
CDS Kinteh said when he took over he conducted trainings for the soldiers to realign their mindsets to their role in a democratic state.
On the way forward, General Kinteh said to achieve balanced national security and the right to information is to ensure an open-door policy with the various media houses.
CDS Kinteh also spoke about the presence of foreign troops in the country, saying the transition is still on but ultimately the security of the country would wrest in the hands of Gambians themselves.
“No matter how many players we have in this country, the security of the country would have to be transferred to the Gambia Armed Forces and other security services in the country,” he said.
He also said the regional troops could soon be reduced as the Gambia Armed Forces continues reorientation.
“But we should realise that without the presence of the Ecomig soldiers, the country would have been in a serious mess,” he said.