Abdoulai G. Dibba
The Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces Masaneh Kinteh, has indicated that the general security situation of the country is relatively calm. He however said the political atmosphere remains a concern.
The Chief of Defence Staff made this assertion on Saturday February 3rd 2018, at the Joint Officers Mess in Kotu, during a press briefing. CDS Kinteh told the press that the new political dispensation has ushered in a widened political space with guaranteed individual freedom, liberty and dignity but went on to say that in as much as this new found freedom is a welcome development, the tendency to abuse it should be a cause for concern.
“There is therefore the need for an intensified sensitization and civic education of the citizenry, in order to reap the benefits of democracy. This is the reason why at the level of the Gambia Armed Forces, we have focused on redirecting the mindset of officers and soldiers on their responsibilities in a democratic dispensation”, he stated.
On balancing Liberty and Security, CDS Kinteh stated that they have a responsibility to protect people’s civil rights and liberties and as an Armed Forces, this remains one of their functions as stated in the 1997 Revised Constitution of the Gambia (as amended). He said they are tasked by the same Constitution to preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Gambia.
“Therefore, we must be responsible in the exercise of our liberties bearing in mind that one’s liberty stops at where another person’s liberty begins. So we must be conscious and responsible on how we exercise our liberties”, CDS Kinteh stated.
On civil disobedience, CDS Kinteh indicated that the incidence in Kanilai, Farato, Mankamang Kunda and Busumbala, were some incidents that triggered the response and tested the mettle of the organs of internal security of the country, during the period and that they must do their best to avert such occurrences. He pointed out that the Gambia Armed Forces as an institution is committed to the achievement of total security as well as ensuring that the liberty of all persons is protected.
He however said they must accept that painful sacrifices must be taken in the interest of human and national security.
On the unexpected return of the two generals, CDS Kinteh noted that the return of Brigadier Generals Umpa Mendy and Ansumana Tamba was a breach of airport security and they have acknowledged this lapse at the National Security Council and took full responsibility for the lack of knowledge on the return of these high profile persons of security and the way and manner they have been processed on arrival; that the two Generals have since been arrested by the Military Police and are being investigated; that their preliminary investigations revealed that the two were dissatisfied with their living conditions and had strained relations with the former president in Equatorial Guinea.
According to CDS Kinteh, investigations are still ongoing and that the two are cooperative in helping the investigators to establish the facts behind their return; that an independent enquiry has been set up by Government to look into this grave security lapse and proffer solutions to avoid its 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”, he stated.
He however noted that they will brief the press on the outcome of the investigations once it is completed.
“So far, nothing relating to their presence or return, points to a threat of national security to a great extent although investigations are still ongoing on a broader scope” he pointed out.
CDS Kinteh went on to say that there have been several lessons learnt from the episode and they have done a total overhaul of their security posture and improved on their communications and information sharing as a security outfit.