Some Gambian Soldiers front line workers deployed at the Serrekunda and Bundung police stations are complaining about lack of food and benefits. The soldiers, who wished not to be named for fear of retribution from their command, said they have been working for long hours without been fed and paid allowances. The aggrieved soldiers told Freedom Newspaper that they worked from 9 am to 9 PM on a given day without been served food by the army command.
The soldiers numbering twenty of them, have been taking part in an operation to help enforce the COVID-19 control regulations within the KMC locality, particularly around market areas. Other security agencies such as the police, and Immigration are part of the operation.
The soldiers said since their deployment to Serrekunda and Bundung in March of this year, they were only fed for one week, and after which they were never fed again.
“We were told that D200,000 dalasis was disbursed for our feeding. That feeding budget lasted for one week. We have been feeding our selves from our pockets since then. Soldiers who do not have money to buy food, would work the whole day without eating. Our condition is miserable here. The other security agencies, who are deployed with us, are also facing the same dilemma. We are suffering here, we need help,” said the lamenting soldiers.
When contacted for comment, the army spokesman Major Lamin Sanyang said it was unethical for soldiers to run to the media and complain about issues regarding their job. He added that the army operates within a chain of command, and that the soldiers concerned should have lodged their complain or concerns with their unit commander and not the press.
“First of all, I don’t think I can comment on that because that is not a proper way of doing things in the military. There is a military chain of command. Their deployment to that operations was initiated through an operational order. So, if they should have any issues with regard their logistics or whatever they have there, they have a command that they can report and a chain of command that they can go through and up their case. But as far as the military command is concerned, we are not aware of these issues that they are raising,” Sanyang told me in a phone interview.
Further quizzed as to whether he was dismissing the soldiers allegations as false, Sanyang in response remarked: “No, what I am saying is that in the military there is a way of we do things, there is a chain of command that each and everyone has to follow. So, them coming to you, I think it is a misplaced way of getting their points across. That is not how we work in the military, before they get to you, we are all down here in The Gambia, and there are very open and transparency involved bringing up issues if like you are deployed in a particular area and things are not working your way or whatever difficulties you might have there if of logistics.”
Sanyang said the soldiers concerned should understand that the media doesn’t fall within their operational command and therefore, all complains and concerns they had should be channeled through their commanders and army meetings.
Mr. Sanyang said the operation in question was part of the army’s constitutional responsibility to come to the aid of civil authority during emergency situations. He says there is no monetary benefit attached to the army’s operation crack nuts, which is to help the government to combat the Coronavirus.
“It is called operation crack nuts. It is part of our constitutional mandate to come to the aid of civil authority when they request us to do so. There is no monetary benefit attached to it. However, the necessary logistics that they need for this operation have been provided by the government and also the armed forces; in terms of their welfare, that is their feeding, their accommodation, their mobility and their fueling, all these have been provided by the government and The Gambia armed forces as the case may be. In terms of monetary benefits, being paid some money, I am privy to that. I think they need to understand that this is a national call to come to the aid of civil authority,” PRO Sanyang said.
“During emergencies, militaries all over the world, are engaged in this type of operations. I don’t think it is appropriate for them to go about asking how much they should be paid, so on and so forth, whatever finds them there like monetary benefits, well that is their luck, but to get up and start asking for money, I don’t think that is ethical for one to do right now because we are in a dire straits, the economy, things are tough, but like I said, it is a constitutional mandate that we are all ask to come to the aid of civil authority,” he added.
The Army Spokesman said the soldiers taking part in the said operations have been equipped with personal protection gears such as face masks and other safety gadgets to protect them from contracting the Coronavirus. He added that it is a requirement for soldiers and people living in military barracks to wear face masks.