A former Gambian soldier believes that the ousted regime of Sir Dawda Jawara has “paid the price of its costly mistake.”
“Sir Dawda committed grave mistake when he removed Colonel Ndow Njie, a former police officer, as the Commander of the Gambia Armed Forces,” Yaya Dampha told Kairo Radio’s Bi Tilo program.
Mr. Dampha, the man with an insider knowledge of the Gambia Armed Forces, said President Jawara could have appointed Major Maba Jobe as Ndow’s replacement. “He allowed that golden opportunity to slip away and instead brought the Nigerian army officers who quickly started exercising their power on our highly professional soldiers. As a consequence, the aggrieved Gambian soldiers plotted to remove Jawara from power on July 22, 1994.”
Dampha spoke well of the Gambian military in the Jawara days. “Our military maintained a culture of discipline, professionalism and respect for authority. The army was career-oriented, and did not have time to meddle into partisan politics. The British Army Training Team had built solid foundation for Gambian military.”
He said the military then was guided by both the Constitution and the Gambia Armed Forces Act, which spelt out everything military. “The chain of command was respected and that power was decentralized and as such the army did not have puppets and hypocrites within its ranks.”
Mr. Dampha said the military in the Jawara era lacked interest in politics. “We neither stormed political rallies, nor voted in elections. But we are seeing a totally different thing in Jammeh’s Gambia where the military has been at the forefront of politics, using its excessive force to tame opponents of the regime.”
Dampha said despite reducing the military into an agent of brutality and mediocrity, the Gambia still needs a functioning military. “We need the military and I don’t agree with those who trumpet the abrogation of the army in a New Gambia. All we need is to inject a culture professionalism and respect among our soldiers. We need to educate them on their role in a democracy which is to protect the territorial integrity of our country from external attacks.”