Gambia’s army chief, Lt. General Masanneh Kinteh has said at his first major press conference with journalists since the regime change that President Adama Barrow maintains a smooth relationship the country’s military force.
He said President Barrow is the commander-in-chief of The Gambia Armed Forces which he is handling efficiently. “Why do you think the armed forces are handling everything in tact without any internal problem?” he asked.
Lt. General Kinteh said some people still believe that the president should visit military barracks to talk to the soldiers but in his view, it is his (Kinteh) responsibility to connect the presidency to the armed forces which, he said is already in progress.
Speaking to reporters at the Officers’ Mess at Kotu on Saturday, Lt. General Kinteh said people have to be sincere, saying as a country, The Gambia has gone through a very difficult transition and he has a responsibility to connect the army and the president.
“We also want to develop a relationship where there would not direct political interference into the affairs of the armed forces. Where the president puts his nose into every barracks and speaking to every soldier, it can break the chain of command. We have seen it happened in the past regime.”
He said former President Yahya Jammeh used to undermine his chief of defense staff by speaking to his subordinates or units under his purview without his knowledge. “That can undermine the chain of command. Now, we want an impersonalised armed force.”
He said President Barrow is aware of everything happening in the armed forces and his permission is obtained first before any decision.
The army chief said their preliminary investigation revealed that generals, Umpa Mendy and Ansumana Tamba who fled with ex-ruler Jammeh to Equatorial Guinea were dissatisfied with their living conditions and had strained relations with their former boss who went into exile after he lost power in 2016. “Investigation is still ongoing and the two are cooperating in helping the investigators to establish the facts behind their unexpected return.”
Kinteh said the Kanilai, Farato, Mankamang Kunda and Busumbala incidences had triggered response and tested the spirit of internal security organs of the country during the period.“We must do our best to avert such occurrences. GAF as an institution is committed to total security achievementand ensuring that the liberty of all persons is protected. However, we must also accept that painful sacrifices must be taken in the interest of human and national security,” he said.
Improving national security
He said the 2016 political impasse that emanated from the last Presidential Election created a very fragile security situation that almost led to serious crisis in the country. “GAF had taken giant strides in improving national security by redesigning our security posture and ensuring that our relationship with our sister services are cordial and efforts are coordinated,” he said.