The Poisonous Albatross called The Gambia Army – Part 1

By Saul Saidykhan

Let’s start by getting something straight outright: we do not have a national army in The Gambia. What we have is what Essa Bokar Sey calls “a criminal gang masquerading as an army.” Some prefer the term criminal Syndicate. I’ll use Ethnic Militia because I believe it’s what more accurately describes the mindset of the people heading our various armed and secret services. The irony is, armies generally tend to help countries bind together to grow into stronger nations. Because the very nature of their work involves life and death issues and the survival of the nation-state, armed services tend to be strong instruments of national cohesion. In the case of the Gambia, probably because we’ve never been to war with any foreign adversary, this isn’t the case. And the reason is the devil call Yaya Jammeh!

Just imagine the insanity of the past fortnight: the Gambia had an election that one person contrary to the constitution single-handedly laid down ALL the rules of the contest to favor him (the Who, How, What, When, Where.) Further, he chose the umpire, and never let Gambians forget that he is the one funding the electoral commission with HIS own funds. Plus, he has a standing army at his beck and call with a history of carrying out his illegal orders of visiting death and violence on defenseless citizens. All his opponents had and have is faith and grit. Their only request was they be allowed to witness the counting of their votes. And oh boy. The Allah of Small People finally heard Gambian peoples’ cry and prayers. Despite all the bluster and chest-thumbing, this person who designed the current electoral system to suit his personal interest and who loudly proclaimed beforehand to the whole world Gambia’s electoral system is rig-free, this man – Yaya Jammeh, lost in the first certifiably transparent election under his rule. Caught flat-footed, he conceded and congratulated the winner as any normal leader defeated in an election should within twelve hours of the results’ declaration, only to rescind that concession eight days later. Thus, the current high stakes drama.

But of greater concern is the attitude of the Gambian army in the current crisis. When Yaya Jammeh conceded defeat, the Chief of Defense Staff Ousman Badjie – his kinsman also called President-Elect Barrow the victor and went on national TV to pledge the allegiance of the armed forces to the people’s choice as he should. Ousman Badjie’s older brother was put through a brutal ordeal some years ago, by Yaya Jammeh – something I wrote about recently. The fact that someone like Ousman Badjie can throw his own brother under the bus to try to back an irretrievably doomed leader like Yaya Jammeh reflects the power of ethnic nationalism Jammeh has imbued his native community with. A sergeant who gives me updates on Badjie calls him an expletive chameleon because barely two days after pledging allegiance to the President-Elect, Badjie after huddling with Jammeh inside State House for hours emerged a totally different person. But according to this NCO, Jammeh doesn’t trust the man one bit and would sacrifice him the minute he doesn’t need him. A mutual friend of thirty years is shocked that the man is throwing away his future for someone who doesn’t care for anyone but himself.

That Ousman Badjie’s loyalty still nominally lies with Yaya Jammeh for no other reason than ethnicity is no longer in doubt. When I saw the video of him from the mass army officers’ promotion with the bundle of jujus around his neck, I took it to be a message from an unsettled CDS to Yaya Jammeh to back off. Given what we now know, it is a clear Tribal signal to all Jola ethnic nationalists to rally around Yaya Jammeh no matter what their individual feeling about him. You see, the juju bundle Ousman Badjie has around his neck are made in Kusamai. ALL real Jolas know this. Also, non Jolas like myself who have been to a Futamfaff in the Fonis in the 80s during the days of the famous Apollo and his group of warriors know this. By donning the Kusamai juju bundle over his official Gambian military uniform, Ousman Badjie was intentionally summoning his fellow Jola members of the army to rally around one of their own. None Jola soldiers need to know and understand this. If Yaya Jammeh refuses to leave, and they stick with him, they’ll die for a cause they’re not part of. People need to tell their non-Jola relatives in the armed services to abandon Yaya Jammeh. It’s exactly what the smart Jola boys will do when things get to a head.

This of course is the immediate. A more thorough review of the role of the Gambian army – one that invites public debate and discourse should be initiated by the incoming government and hopefully complimented by subsequent ones. There are certain basic questions that require public discussion:

1.Should a country where no single public hospital has adequate medications, functioning diagnostic or therapeutic equipment (MRI/scan machine, incubator or even oxygen tanks) spend millions on an army that has done more harm than good since its inception?

  1. Do we really need a standing army at all in The Gambia? Why not consider the Swiss option where people could be trained on an on-going basis in civil defense, and rescue missions in case of natural disasters and other calamities? Currently while we’re wasting millions annually on the army, Gambians caught up in natural disasters – be that floods, or winds, are left to the vagaries of nature. With the effects of climate change becoming more pronounced, the Swiss model would probably serve us better than an army that can NEVER realistically defend Gambia from any country that wants to fight us in a real war. Despite the infantile bragging of Yaya Jammeh about the greatness of his army, the Senegalese can easily take out the Iranian arms Yaya Jammeh has stored in Kaninlai and two other locations. The reason being very few people like Yaya Jammeh. All his secrets are matters his own generals brag to their countless girlfriends about!

  2. Education especially STEM as in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is a bigger priority. There is more to education funding than building physical schools. Teaching kids is better than keeping an army. The Gambia is in dire need of help in several important professional fields especially in the medical arena. The negative effects of Yaya Jammeh’s misrule has been widespread and profound. I am middle -age and I have a hard time watching some of the images I sometimes receive regarding the atrocities committed by Yaya Jammeh and his thugs against innocent Gambians. Even listening to some of the graphic stories about what these monsters do to Gambians get to me. So, Gambia is a country that really needs to go through a catharsis. We would need psychologists, psychiatrists and other medical professionals for years to come to help the Gambian population navigate through what we have been put through by these group of animals lead by Yaya Jammeh. What has happened in Gambia is an entire generation has not only been lost, but has grown up with a very twisted sense of what is normal. It is now incumbent on the new authorities to try to correct this deformed sense of normal. Those trying to shoo us quickly past this trauma without recognizing the significance of the damage that has been done.

Circling back to the Gambia army, the problem there goes beyond the overt ethnic nationalism. It is an institution full of barely literate youth that is rotten to the core. And it has only been getting worse. For pointers, one need not go further than its two most high profile public intellectuals or as I like to call them the Two Funny Colonels. Alternatively, one can call them, the “Young Colonel” and the “Old Colonel.” The “Old Colonel” is a sad pathetic figure who needs no introduction and is generally held in contempt by Gambians these days. For that reason, there’s no point in giving him the attention he craves.



  1. Thank you Saul for hitting the nail on the head . In my first article on Baba Jobe as ” the architect of current military dictatorship ” . I have talked about security arrangements of Gambian military dictatorship which is very similar to dictatorship under former Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi . Jammeh like Col Gaddafie has structured his security based on tribal line . His tribal militia forces are responsible for current political stalemate. This might be the last straw before his downfall. The same thing happened in Libya before Dictator Gaddafi was killed .

    Gambian military has been infiltrated by Jola tribal militia forces whose main objective is to have Jola hegemony in The Gambia and cassamance which they have been fighting for in the last three decades. Jammeh being the president of The Gambia has given opportunities to Jola people with tribal hegemony mindset to defend the regime at cost . Yaya jammeh want to rule The Gambia at all cost , he is therefore using the Jola people as his ethnic brothers to oppress the Gambian people and to subvert the will of Gambian people . Jola militia forces both within The Gambia military and cassamance rebellion are a threat to our regional peace, security and democracy. Many of our current military leaders in The Gambia military have their DNA been linked to cassamance Jola rebellion which was repudiated by other ethnic groups in the senegambia . By and large Jola hegemony and control of our country’s security apparatus is a grand design strategically made by Jammeh to stay in power. This is evidence by appointments of Jola people as the head of almost all the important security installations/ institutions in The Gambia. Example, The chief of defense staff of the army is a Jola , the head of presidential Guard is a Jola , the head of Gambia’s navy is a Jola , commanders of all military Barracks are Jola people. The head of national intelligence agency is a Jola . Almost all the most important positions in The Gambia are occupied by Jola . The head of central bank of The Gambia, finance minister, Agriculture , Gamtel , GRTS and etc etc are all occupy by Jola . This is open tribalism and discrimination in The Gambia while jammeh hypocritically blamed mandinkas or the opposition coalition for tribalism. Yaya jammeh has a tribalist government and military in place . The current political crisis is based on tribalism. Even the people of Foni has demonstrated tribalism in the voting process. The question now is ” should senegambia citizens allow one tribal militia forces to destabilize the whole region?” . Already they have destabilized cassamance for the three decades and now they are destroying our country’s relative peace and stability by importing their biologically and culturally inherited human rights violations and lack of respect for human dignity in The Gambia. Gambian people need to stand up for themselves and chase these tribal inherited killers out of our country. For three decades, Senegal has successfully isolated and ostracized this tribal militia which is now threatening our national existence as a country. Their so called rebellion in cassamance is almost contained because of democratic nature of vast majority of citizenry in cassamance. Jammeh’s current behavior has the potential to disintegrate our country into two sections and secede Foni to be part of cassamance or as isolated region.
    Gambian military is part of the problem. I think we do not a standing army especially the current one which is tribalist in nature . I personally had experience this tribalism in the military when I was confronted to Jola language at Yundum Barracks more than ten years ago when I visited a relative. I am pretty sure the situation is worst now because of a stupid bigot we have as a president.
    In order to solve our problems, we must first identify that it is tribal problem which is sponsored and spearheaded by a tribal leader. Indigenous Gambian citizens must realize this grand design for us to successfully eradicate this cancer from our country. Senegal has successfully isolated this militia forces because they have surgically and radiologically removed the better part of the cancer before it metastasized to other tribes . It is now time for Gambian people to do the same if we really want to have peace , security and democracy in our country.

  2. Manding Darboe

    “What we have is what Essa Bokar Sey calls “a criminal gang masquerading as an army.” Some prefer the term criminal Syndicate. I’ll use Ethnic Militia because I believe it’s what more accurately describes the mindset of the people heading our various armed and secret services.”

    Thank you Essa for a well thought-out and well written article ” I concur entirely with Essa Bokar Sey’s description of current albatross that we call “The Gambia National Army”. His use of the term “Ethnic Militia” is right on target.

    If I were to be a president in The Gambia, Essa Bokar Sey shall have a role in my administration or if he were to be president in The Gambia, I would like to work in his administration if he would like me to serve.
    Thank you.
    Manding Darboe
    New York

  3. It is horrific SEEING conscience writen on the face. Isn’t it? It takes to see the heart to know one’s intentions they say but this doesn’t seem to be true in the case of the militia men in the Gambia. One example is the picture of the militia man in the picture above. He is telling me, ”look!, I General…, is lucky to have made myself up and my general extended family with Gambia’s wealth and it isn’t absolutely my intention to give it up. I will die defending it.” That’s exactly a psychiatrist with a clue of the Gambia will tell you about such mad men calling themselves soldiers.
    The world and the Gambia is dealing with strange half-minds fidgeting around a ‘dangerous red botton’. The way the so-called general have addressed a parade of soldiers is enough proof to title him and everyone around him; ‘MILITIA’.

  4. Saul, underrate EVIL yaya & Equal EVIL souls to one’s peril; there’re tribal elements who would want the remain & continue of yaya KILLER DEVIL TYRANNICAL misrule in the Gambia to death, at all costs; EVEN IF it’ll cost the country into flames; & this ISN’T necessarily (only) limited to tribal affiliation in Gambia but extends & including some EVIL humans in other tribes & in all walks of life; some of the militia services have already relocated their immediate families outside & within the country in anticipation, away from “danger zone” they assumed (as if the whole Gambia isn’t a danger zone for past 22 years)…

    Talk less of Ousman Badjie; “tortured” Jesus himself was “the best police IG ever” KILLER yaya DEVIL claimed to have in the MURDEROUS kanilai FIEFDOM services; criminal enablers like Sam Sarr, Mommodou Lamin Touray, Babou Gaye Sonko, Balla Jahumpha, par example, etc etc aren’t known Jola affiliated tribal elements…?

    Yaya Jammeh carbon-copied Moamar Kaddafi Libyan “green revolution” hence the afprc & “party” green-colour; acclaimed & decorated it(yaya)self the colonel title; the political wing which metamorphosed into being called the aprc party were a designed mechanization necessary to validate & facilitate the continuity of the MURDEROUS kanilai FIEFDOM on the political front whilst the kanilai Dracula runs amok…

    When an oppressed people agree & congregate together collectively, just like in Gambia & anywhere else before, they always eventually succeed into catalysing & effecting change subsequently no matter how it takes; the genocide intended as being architected by the EVIL kanilai DEVIL & cohorts will be averted Insha Allah; DEVIL yaya & criminal elements know life as usual is indeed no more beyond here; they are better off dying then being prosecuted &/ jailed…

    The whole 22 years episode of barbarities & carnage has been a tremendous catastrophic Learning Curve for Gambians which have been learnt & experienced firsthand, instead of hearing about from afar like before; that’s why any politician mustn’t think they alone can have answers for our country; especially after this kanilai FIEFDOM DARKNESS…

    It’ll required all hands on deck & monumental task to reverse the human resources carnage in particular, as result of the past 22 years of barbarities & misrule; economically there’s some glimmer of hope however; with unfettered democracy sky is the limit in Gambia…

    Long live the Gambia…

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