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By Tabora Bojang

The Standard Newspaper has said it is disappointed with a statement from the ministry of defence accusing it of seriously misquoting Minister Seringe Modou Njie during his deliberations at the National Assembly. The Standard ran a story on the minister’s response to the Member of Foni Kansala Almamy Gibba with a headline: “Gambia Tells Senegal To Respect Sovereignty’, quoting the minister’s exact words in his response to Gibba’s supplementary question.

However, the ministry of defence said the minister was misquoted seriously by the paper with an intention to misrepresent him:  Below is the statement from the Ministry:

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The Standard Newspaper seriously misquoted the Defence Minister’s remarks on Senegal

“The ministry of defence wishes to clarify that The Standard Newspaper’s edition of Thursday 30th March 2023, intentionally misrepresented the remarks of the defence minister Honourable Sering Modou Njie, before the National Assembly and is therefore erroneous.

Contrary to The Standard’s story captioned “Gambia Tells Senegal to Respect Sovereignty” the Defence Minister during a question-and-answer session before the National Assembly on the 29th March 2023 in answering question 098/2023 of the National Assembly member for Foni Kansala Constituency Honourable Almameh Gibba said that “our land, territory and airspace are part of our national sovereignty. Any use of our national territory should be with the expressed approval of the Gambia Government.” He further said that he is not aware of any instance when our air space or land territory was used in violation of our national sovereignty to launch a military offensive in Casamance.

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On the drone and artillery shells issue per question number 098/ 2023 by the same Honourable member, Minister Njie responded; “we are aware of few incidents of artillery shells and other projectiles that landed on the Gambian side during military confrontation in Casamance and we have addressed that with our Senegalese counterparts.

That is clearly different from an intentional and well calculated attempt by Senegal to use the Gambian territory to launch a military offensive in Casamance. “The development that unfolded did not seem to suggest that the Gambia and Foni in particular was the target of the drone attacks.” The Minister added, “we addressed the matter with our Senegalese counterparts so that their military planners and those responsible for making strategic targeting decisions will exercise extra care when making targeting decisions so that they can keep the conflict away from the Gambia.

The defence minister reaffirms the commitment of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) to the protection of the territorial integrity of the Gambia which includes the Fonis.”

In response, The Standard’s editor Lamin Cham said the ministry’s rebuttal is unjustified and surprising because the minister’s statements made in response to a supplementary question posed by Hon Giibba was heard by everybody in a video which is still available online, showing him stating exactly what has been reported by the paper. Mr Cham said the ministry’s rebuttal only provided the minister’s answers to the official questions from the NAM (which have been adequately captured by the paper anyway) and not his answers to a supplementary question which is where the story was sourced from.

“We are making the video and audio available on our platform and all interested media for the public to judge. We at The Standard put a lot of premium on accuracy and ethics and always work hard to do the job diligently. When and if we make an error, we would dutifully admit it and run a correction. However, we would not allow anyone to unjustifiably blame us or the media in general as a means of running away from the implications of what might have been stated,” Mr Cham said. This is the exact transcription of the ministers exact words when responding to Hon Gibba’s official and supplementary  questions on  the  security of Fonie from Senegalese drones as well as whether Senegal respect Gambia’s sovereignty: “We have addressed this matter with our Senegalese counterparts so that their military planners and those responsible for making strategic decisions when they are calling for fire should exercise extra careful (sic) when making this targeting decision so these shells and drones will keep the conflict away from The Gambia. It is imperative to note that the peace in the Foni general area means peace in The Gambia and insecurity in Foni means insecurity in The Gambia. That is why the Gambia Armed Forces is making its deployments in Foni area that is supporting the 4 Infantry Battalion in Kanilai both as a show of force to restore confidence of the people and to keep the Foni in general safe and secure for the residence in the area to go about their normal business. We have engaged our Senegalese counterparts to make sure that such do not happen in our land and airspace and this we have addressed seriously.   Let me make it very clear any use of our national territory should be expressed with the approval of the government of the Gambia. This we have expressed with our counterparts, that is the Senegalese side, and they must respect that our national air and land territory is our national sovereignty and that they must respect.”

The question now arises whether from the above statement, the minister is not telling the NAMs that Gambia has told Senegal to respect her sovereignty, as has been reported by The Standard?

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