Military Undoing Dictatorship Wrongs

By Abdoulie John

The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) has began what appears to be the undoing of the rocky relationship it had with the civilian population during 22 years of the Jammeh dictatorship. The GAF leadership knows the cure to the bad blood is for military to remain not only civil but also offers free service to communities in need. The army last Saturday embarked on massive cleansing exercice at Talinding Upper Basics School in the Kanifing Municipality.

At least 90 military members willingly offered free service at the said school, a move is expected to reconnect, revitalize as well as somehow repair the civilian-military relations.

The military-civilian relations in the Jawara era was one of the best. But the emergence of Yahya Jammeh turned the military into a political machine armed to hunt and kill Jammeh’s opponents. It had reached to a situation in which concerned Gambians wondered why the service officers put an individual interest above those of the taxpayer.

By the time Jammeh was dislodged from power, majority of Gambians have already become confused about the role of the army.  The Adama Barrow leadership has given them the opportunity to understand the role of an army in a democracy.

The GAF Spokesman Lt. Col. Omar Bojang told this reporter that the “role of the army does not only stop in defending the territorial integrity of the country.”

In March this year, the newly appointed Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) Lt. General Masanneh Kinteh announced his resolve to make sure that civilian-military relationship returns to normalcy. Turning his back to Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship rule, Kinteh made it clear that it is left to soldiers to prove to civilian population that the army is here to serve them.

In addition to defending the country, Lt Col. Bojang said there are several other initiatives the army is bound to take in order to respond to community needs.

“When they made request to the CDS, he gave the go-ahead for the cleansing exercice to be done without delay,” Bojang said. He said the army spared no efforts to give a helping hand to the community of Talinding.

Navy boss Commodore Madany Senghore and GAF Inspector General Brigadier General Alhagie Martin were seen on the ground leading troops in new battle against insalubrity.

The army spokesman seized the opportunity to recall that soldiers have been involved in community engagement since the inception of the new regime.

“We recently cleaned the Banjul highway, from Sting Corner to Denton Bridge.”

Talinding Upper Basics School Demba Keita thanked the army for coming to their rescue, stating that the school was in bad shape. “It is a timely intervention that will help to create a conducive environment for the students,” he said.

He expressed hope that other institutions will follow suit and clean their immediate environment.

Members of Talinding Vision Kaffo, who started the cleansing exercise two weeks back, called on the private sector to help construct pit latrines in the school.

“The old pit latrines have been closed for safety reasons,” said Binta Marena.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Malla Bah who urged benevolents and NGOs to contribute their quota. “We need a fence to secure the school,” she said.


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