By Emmanuel Joof (Paps)
The security of the country needs to be addressed seriously especially given the recent incidents in the Fonis. Unfortunately, we have an army that has been “tribalized” over a period of 22 years and comprising of MFDC rebels from Jammeh’s tribe (fighting for independence from Senegal) incorporated into the Gambia Armed Forces and only loyal to Yahya Jammeh. It is an open secret that the Gambian army ran a core assassin unit that were engaged in eliminating Jammeh’s perceived enemies and opponents.
The conduct and behavior of the army and the NIA during the impasse i.e. December 9th to January 19 when Jammeh refused to cede power to President elect Adama Barrow after being defeated in the Presidential elections should be an eye opener to all Gambians although like typical well intentioned Gambians at the time we mostly relied on hope and divine intervention that the army will be finally loyal to the Gambian people.
What we in fact witness was the then Army Chief CDS Ousman Badjie (now celebrated by a section of the Gambian population as a hero) deployed at major street junctions some young armed men brandishing guns most of whom (about 600) were allegedly recruited only weeks before the presidential elections.
These armed men together with some NIA and plain cloth officers soon started rounding up those wearing Gambia has decided T-Shirts and were also seen ripping off posters bearing the same logo. Meanwhile half of the population of the capital city Banjul ran for dear life and crossed over to the Senegalese boarder for safety as Jammeh supported by his army and APRC Parliamentarians who voted to extend his mandate unlawfully for a further 90 days by introducing a state of emergency and therefore openly attempting to usurp the will of the Gambian people and the advice of ECOWAS for Jammeh to step down.
Even when Jammeh’s termed finally expired on the 19th January (and contrary to the current narrative of former Army CDS Badjie) the army was still loyal to Jammeh. It will take threats of the use of force by ECOMIG and diplomacy by the Guinean President and Mauritanian Foreign Minister to persuade Jammeh to leave the seat of power.
I beg to ask this question, WHERE WAS the GAMBIAN ARMY???. It was only when it was obvious that they were going to be annihilated by the ECOMIG forces and for self-preservation did they step down. Meanwhile President Adama Barrow had to be sworn in exile in the Senegalese capital Dakar. President Adama Barrow dared not enter Gambia for another 3/4 days because loyal Jammeh’s military men and henchmen were still loyal to Jammeh.
Following ECOMIG entry into Gambian soil, Jammeh was seen being escorted to the airport by soldiers some crying profusely and the likes of Camp Commander of Kanilia Captain Musa Savage a man allegedly credited with carrying assassinations/executions on behalf of Jammeh was heard on Fatu Radio show during an interview saying that he only recognizes Yahya Jammeh as the President and this was after the swearing in of Adama Barrow as President.
The army that President Barrow inherited is compromised and it will take a lot of work and due diligence to sort out this army. Gambians should stop being deluded and accept the fact that without ECOMIG, Jammeh would still be ruling Gambia or worst still, another Yahya Jammeh sponsored coup de’tat on President Barrow would have been effected.
Barrow needs to vet, purge, and reorient the Gambian National Army. Granted this is a mammoth’s task given that 22 years of tinkering with the armed forces for the benefit of a dictator will be difficult to reverse overnight. That said, this needs to be done urgently before the ECOMIG forces are seen as an army of occupation and or an army of invasion by Gambians.
The people of Kanilia have already started agitating for the removal of ECOMIG albeit for different reasons but this should be a wake-up call for the Coalition Government of Adama Barrow and Gambians generally.
By Emmanuel Joof (Paps)