Dear Mr. Mbai, please find rejoinder for your publication. While looking forward to your cooperation, please accept my warm regards.

Captain Malick Sanyang
Acting Director of Press and Public Relations
The Gambia Armed Forces

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REJOINDER ON THE FREEDOM ONLINE STORY ALLEGING THE TARGETING OF JOLA OFFICERS – THE APOLITICAL STANCE OF THE GAMBIA ARMED FORCES IN PERSPECTIVE

The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) High Command wishes to draw the attention of the general public and online news followers regarding a disturbing headline of a story published by the Freedom newspaper online that reads: “FIVE JOLLA ARMY OFFICERS CONFRONT CDS DRAMMEH…” This story was published on 4th October 2021. A further publication on 5th October 2021 followed suit, which reads: “…THE PURPORTED MILITARY INTELLIGENCE REPORT…” Following these stories, an audio was uploaded through the same medium expressing similar views and sentiments on the two stories and calling out some names at least without the mention of tribe. These publications in total present a deep concern to the Gambian populace whose hope for the healing of the nation is challenged constantly by the bane of tribal sentiments and political bigotry.

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It is instructive to state that the armed forces of any nation is the bastion of unity and the last line of defence and GAF is by no means an exception to this reality. Accordingly, GAF strives and commits herself to the preservation of peace and security of our motherland in line with her prescribed mandate as contained in the 1997 Constitution (As Amended). In order to achieve this lofty ideal and aspiration, it is important to highlight that GAF does not have any policy that portrays any of its personnel along ethnic, religious, colour or creed lines. Consequently, making such a disturbing and misleading reference to certain members of the Armed Forces with a particular ethic nomenclature is not only divisive but also callous and dangerous to say the least with huge security ramifications.

On genesis of the meeting (so-called confrontation) of the adversely mentioned officers with the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), as described by the online publication, is not only misleading but also grossly inaccurate. In the interest of highlighting military culture and its ethos, as it exists, the officers mentioned first and foremost shared their concerns with the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (DCDS) on the purported report. Thereafter, the DCDS contacted the CDS for an audience with him together with the concerned officers. This request was granted on the basis of transparency. It was during this meeting that the CDS indicated that it was the first time that he heard about the purported report containing the names of the deeply concerned officers. It is therefore imperative to indicate that there exists no such thing in the Armed Forces as “confrontation” between senior and junior officers. Any senior officer can call the attention of his junior and a junior officer may also respectfully raise concerns or make a case to a senior in line with Service tenets and protocols i.e ‘chain of command’ approach. Such occurrences therefore can only be described as normal in the Armed Forces.

It was furthermore indicated to them that no such report has been tendered to the GAF High Command (Office of the CDS) nor has he (CDS) been briefed on such purported report and, the concerned officers have been assured to go about their normal businesses. The High Command took cognizance of the past where people were arrested, incarcerated and even dismissed just on unproven allegations. Therefore, without any substantive proof, the officers have been reassured that gone are the days when people could just be alleged and arrested arbitrarily.

As alleged by the online stories on the involvement of the GAF Military Intelligence unit, nothing in fact and in substance could be further from the assertion being accurate. It is pertinent to mention that like any other directorate at the Defence Headquarters, there is no barrier between the Director of Military Intelligence and Security and the CDS and as such, dealings between the two does not go through a third party intervention. Therefore, the Director of Military Intelligence is obliged to share with Command on timely basis; all issues that boarder on National Security, which is consistent with his/her Terms of Reference. Hence, whatever document originates from that unit goes directly to the Office of the CDS; a process of which this purported document never passed through from all indications.

Given the gravity of the allegations, the questions that any genuine and rational person would therefore ask are why the purported document did not bear a letterhead and signature, which is inconsistent with official GAF document configurations. One could further be tempted to ask, why was the purported document never sent to the office of the CDS, as it should have been if the GAF Intelligence unit had written it? Therefore, the only sound deduction could be that the purported report online is just ”hearsay” backed by no factual evidence.  Base on these questions raised, the GAF Intelligence unit could not be the ones responsible for such an evidence devoid report.

Given these narratives for the purpose of clarity and to allay the fears of the officers concerned and the public at large, if anyone especially the originator(s) of the purported report; be it an individual or groups of individuals, should come forward with substantive evidence and present it, be assured that the right course of action (full blown investigation) will be carried out in line with established military procedures.  Until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt with substantive facts given the gravity of the allegation, the report is considered hearsay. It must be emphasized that the true spirit of the GAF does not thrive on tribal cleavages nor encourage discrimination base on sex, tribe or religion etc. and condemns therefore, without reservation the way the report has been angled online.

Additionally, it has been observed of recent, the ascription of appointments within the GAF to tribe, region and other deplorable assertions from some quarters in the public domain. Therefore, it is pertinent to clarify that postings and appointments in the military are strictly based on merits and nothing else. The raison d’être for this is to ensure sound service delivery output in line with the ideals of the Security Sector Reform, which is solely for the betterment of the Armed and Security services of the Gambia as it obtained in many other countries.

 

It is essential to indicate that GAF spots officers and test them with new challenges every now and then until the individual officer’s strengths are realized in a certain area. In the recent past (between 2017 to date), officers have been moved in single instances as well as en-mass from one appointment to the other. Such routine rotations and reshufflings would always continue until the right people are in the right places. It would therefore be tremendously misleading to ascribe appointments in the GAF on tribal leanings but rather on effectiveness.

 

With regards to the purging of some officers due to their ethnic inclinations as alleged and contained in the Freedom newspaper publication of 5th October 2021, the general public is hereby informed that such does not exist in terms of context and fact. Furthermore, for clarity sake and fact checking, those claiming that appointment in GAF is tribally inclined are encouraged to further investigate or contact the armed forces in person for details of key appointment holders and their ethnicities within both the Defence Headquarters and the Joint Services Headquarters respectively. Our doors are open for clarification and we are more than ready to provide you with undisputable facts.

 

To this end, GAF craves the indulgence of all law abiding citizens and fellow compatriots to distinctly insulate the GAF and her members from politics and help in the advancement of the apolitical commitment it has made so resolutely since the period of 2017 to date. Hence, persons with nefarious intent must avoid attempts to infiltrate the military through political means in advancement of agendas not commensurate with that of the lofty ideals of the GAF.

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BREAKING NEWS: FREEDOM EDITOR DEFENDS FREEDOM PUBLICATION; AS HE DESCRIBES THE ARMY’S REJOINDER AS A COVERUP AND AN EMBELLISHMENT OF HIS PUBLICATIONS!

To start with, we want to point out that the rejoinder that was  issued by The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) command entitled:  “ REJOINDER ON THE FREEDOM ONLINE STORY ALLEGING THE TARGETING OF JOLA OFFICERS – THE APOLITICAL STANCE OF THE GAMBIA ARMED FORCES IN PERSPECTIVE,” lacks merit, devoid of the truth and totally misleading. There was nowhere in our reportage in which tribal bigotry was inferred or implied. What we reported was the truth and nothing but the truth.  The officers who were mentioned in the purported MI report, were all Jollas. There was no other officer mentioned besides Jollas. So, we will call it as it is. Straight up!

Regarding the usage of the word, the accused officers “confronting” CDS Drammeh, the GAF command is being petty and dishonest by deliberately misrepresenting the real meaning of that word. The command has decided to assign a negative connotation to the word “confront.”

What we reported was clear, and precised, even a kindergarten would be able to comprehend the connotation associated with that word.  For clarity purposes, what we meant was that the accused officers had confronted the CDS for clarification on the accusation contained in that purported MI report.

Since CSD Drammeh isn’t denying the meeting that he had with the accused officers, it is imperative to note that his Military Intelligence Director Musa Trawally, has denied having any knowledge of the said meeting. Trawally, in a message sent to his Intel subordinates, has urged them to disregard the Freedom Newspaper publication, branding it as unfounded stories. He said, “no such meetings ever took place at the CDS office.”

Trawally’s statement that was contained in a Whatsapp forum that he had created for his men, is diametrically opposed to  CDS Drammeh’s statement of the meeting that he said he had with his deputy Mamat Cham and the accused officers: Colonel Alhagie Sanneh, Colonel Essa Tamba and co.

It appears that there is a disconnect between the CDS and his Intel Director. The CDS is hiding from his subordinates.

Trawally ran to social media to dismiss the existence of any meeting that CDS Drammeh had with Sanneh and co. Little did he knew that the CDS was playing on both sides.

The same CDS Drammeh told Colonel Sanneh and co that he doesn’t know anything about the purported MI report, accusing his officers of coup plot. He even advised them to “go about their business” and disregard the report as fake.  How did the CDS knew that the report was fake? Did he investigate it to verify its veracity? Was the State Intelligence Services (SIS) invited to witness his meeting with the accused officers? Did he forward the report to the police for a possible investigation to be constituted? Why was the MI Director Musa Trawally not invited at the meeting that the CDS had with Colonel Sanneh and co?

Going by the 1997 constitution, failing to report a treason, is a punishable offense. CDS Drammeh was in fact arrested back in March of 2006, accused of concealing treason. He was tortured and demoted to the rank of a non-commissioned officer.

The accusations were said to be false, but unfortunately he suffered the brunt of Jammeh’s power excesses. Drammeh should have learnt from his past ordeal and commence a proper investigation on the allegations contained in that purported MI report.

Colonel Sanneh and co have done the right thing by reporting the alleged treason information that they gathered that the CDS in his rebuttal painted the officers as being allegedly “adversely” mentioned. Drammeh had never bothered to call his Intel Chief Colonel Musa Trawally to verify the alleged “adverse” mentioning of his accused officers in that report.  He just blindly labelled them as “adversely” mentioned without verifying the truthfulness of thatreport. Absurd, right? Miscarriage of justice!

On the command’s claim that the purported MI report doesn’t have a letterhead, in our view, that was a weak argument. It is  a coverup  and also an attempt to play with the intelligence of The Gambian civilian population.

Credible and authoritative GAF sources have told us that “there is nothing new for the military intelligence to issue an Intel report that doesn’t contain a GAF letter head.”  It is a common practice at GAF for MI reports to be issued with a letterhead.

The rejoinder we received from you did not contain any letterhead.  Therefore, your argument lacks merit.

The CDS can fool some people, but he cannot fool the Freedom Newspaper. We are highly informed, and our sources are unimpeachable.

Regarding the Whatsapp audio that you mentioned in your rejoinder, we want to point out that the audio in question, was issued by one Sana Jarju, a strong supporter of the main opposition United Democratic party. Like the purported MI report, Jarju has also accused the aforementioned Jolla officers of plotting to overthrow the Barrow government. He also alleged the Jolla officers of being part of the APRC splinter group, that is opposing the APRC/NPP political alliance.

Sana Jarju’s accusations against the accused officers has collaborated the purported MI report.

The army should remain apolitical and avoid relying on distorted intelligence that could malign the reputation of its fine officers.

On the CDS’ statement that the days of arresting officers because of concocted false information is over, is left to be desired. It is questionable.

It would be recalled that when the change of government happened back in 2016, some officers mainly Jolla officers were prematurely retired from the force. The retirement stemmed from an alleged MI report, accusing them of having ties with Jammeh. They were also accused of not being loyal to the Barrow government. The purging happened during Masaneh Kinteh’s watch as CDS.

We condemn tribalism in any form.  Tribalism has teared nations apart.

Genuine national reconciliation cannot be achieved in the absence of eradicating tribal supremacy and marginalization. Appointments and promotions should not be done on the basis of one’s tribe, creed or color.

The GAF rejoinder that was sent by Captain Malick Sanyang doesn’t bear the name or signature of CDS Yankuba Drammeh. No one has signed off on that rejoinder. The document can only pass credibility test or be taken with seriousness if it is signed by an official of GAF. Please sign your documents next time.

Finally, it is disingenuous on the part of the command to embellish our reportage on the GAF officers saga. The rejoinder was nothing but a coverup. Be truthful to Gambians and stop trafficking fake information. We rest our case!

Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 919-749-6319

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