EX-SOLDIERS DEMAND UNPAID ALLOWANCES
At least thirty-seven former soldiers have issued an ultimatum for the Gambia Armed Forces to settle their unpaid allowances. The retired soldiers of Intake 32 are demanding the payment of their gratuity, leave encasement, and WOPS—widows orphans pension scheme.
“We see no reason why it should take the army this long to pay our entitlements after making several attempts to get our payment including meetings with the top brass of the army. We are giving them one week to pay us, or else we will come out and protest. Enough is enough,” former Lance Corporal Alieu Sowe, who spoke on behalf of the group, told The Standard.
According to Sowe, most of the unhappy soldiers retired at the ranks of Lance Corporal and it has been four months since they completed their twelve years of service in the military.
“We have formed delegations and met senior officers of the army on three occasions, but they could not tell us anything sensible. Whenever we go there, they will promise to sort us out. Now we are tired, but before embarking on any strike, we want the Gambian people to know what is going on,” he said.
He said there are several other soldiers who retired years ago and are yet to receive their entitlements.
“This is against the terms of reference guiding the service. We want this thing resolved now. This is why we are giving them one week to pay us, failing of which we will organise a protest,” he warned.
He said leave encasement and WOPS should be paid by the Gambia Armed Forces, while gratuity should be paid by the Treasury.
Sowe added that the Treasury has started paying them, but the army is just telling them that they are making transactions.
When contacted for comments, the GAF Director of Press, Lieutenant Lamin Sanyang, said the delay in payment is not only affecting the army. He said the central government is currently processing retirement benefits for teachers, doctors, and others, and maybe that is why the process is slow.
Sanyang said those who complete their mandatory twelve-year service in the military will have the option to reengage or to discharge.
“So, before they do that, there are several procedures that need to be followed, like counseling the individual to know why he or she wants to leave and all that, but people can also leave voluntarily, like the way they came. So if we counsel them and they still want to leave, the unit responsible will forward their files to the headquarters, and then we process them and forward them to the ministry of finance for payment. Once we submit them, we keep following to ensure they receive their payments, and where there is a delay, we encourage them to come back to us so we can help them follow up,” he said.
He urged the retired soldiers to exercise patience and allow the army to follow up on their files.
“We definitely appreciate their service to the armed forces, and we will always do our best to support them, so I can only ask them to exercise patience,” he said.
Source: The Standard