By: Saidou Baldeh
The country’s former two generals who fled with Yahya Jammeh has had strained relations with him which led them to abandon him in Equatorial Guinea and fly back to Gambia, preliminary findings by the military disclosed.
Masanneh Kinteh, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces made the disclosure during a press conference held on Saturday at the Officer Mess in Kotu.
Generals Ansumana Tamba and Umpa Mendy, the two generals who closely worked with the autocratic ruler came back into the county unexpectedly and passed through the airport security without being noticed. CDS Kinteh said the home return of the generals was a breach of airport security. “We have acknowledged this lapse at the National Security Council and took full responsibility as a council for the lack of knowledge about the return of these high persons of security interest and the way and manner they have been processed on arrival,” he stated.
According to CDS Kinteh, an independent enquiry has been set up by the government to look into “this grave security lapse” and proffer solutions to avoid recurrence.
“On our part as the GAF, the two generals are for the moment presumed to be deserters after having stayed away from the armed forces for over a year. We will equally brief the media on the outcome of the investigations once completed,” he added.
‘Relations with presidency’
There have been recent commentaries in newspapers that the country’s leadership does not trust the army.
The Gambian army has suffered a lot of political interference during the country’s dictatorship and some analysts believe Jammeh still has lot of influence within.
But Kinteh said the army’s relations with the president could not have been better.
“Some people are of the view that the president should just go and visit the military barracks and talk to the soldiers. Well, probably that is another way of making that showmanship that you are in charge, involved or in touch but sometimes it can also send a wrong message… What I can assure you is that it is my responsibility to connect the presidency to the armed forces and that is a work in progress.”
“We have to be sincere, as a country we have gone through a very difficult transition… I have a responsibility to connect the army and the president and it is going to be done and very soon you will see a change in that direction,” Kinteh promised.
“The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and that is a responsibility he is handling efficiently… Why do you think armed forces are handling everything in tact without any internal problem?”
“We also want to develop a relationship where there would not be direct political interference into the affairs of the armed forces. We have seen it happened in the past regime. The president was undermining the chief of the defense staff by speaking to his subordinates or units under the purview of the chief of defense staff without his knowledge. Those things can undermine the chain of command. And we want an armed forces that is not personalized but remains as an institution and everybody is given a space.”
“The president is aware of everything happening in the armed forces and his permission is obtained first before anything can be done. This is on a daily basis on issues of the armed forces,” Kinteh added.