The president and commander-in-chief of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) has said that all soldiers will be quartered in the barracks effective January 2013.
Accommodation of other ranks in the barracks, transportation as well as building a recruitment centre among other things were highly featured on the plans the CDS and his lieutenants want to undertake during their tenure of office. They also highlighted the need for establishing a Gambia Armed Forces School of Education from nursery to primary school levels.
The move, according to the GAF high command, aims to enforce high sense of discipline among various ranks in GAF as well as cutting down unnecessary spending on the part of government. These among others were highlighted as part of the new approach that the CDS and his team wish to take to commensurate with efforts of transforming GAF into a highly motivated professional army that anybody can be proud of.
The new steps were introduced to His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh on Monday at State House in Banjul while presiding over the decoration of the CDS of GAF from Major General to a Lieutenant General and the State Guard's commander from Major to a Colonel. The ceremony was preceded by the swearing-in of Major General Saikou Seckan as new deputy CDS.
In his address to the decorated officers, President Jammeh touched on various issues ranging from discipline and greater regimentation among members of GAF. He said there is no way one can have a high standard of discipline in the armed forces as long as the soldiers are not placed in one place. In spite of its enormous challenges, he is of the conviction that regimentation can be effective when all the soldiers are accommodated in the barracks.
"What we want is a highly motivated professional army; an army that anybody can be proud of. We don't want an army where when they meet armies in the outside world, they will be looked down upon. We want an army that can always raise the Gambian flag even in space," he said.
He continued: "The armed forces of the Gambia must reflect the true nature of The Gambia today. We are no longer an obscure small nation that no one knows about," he said, while welcoming the idea of accommodating all soldiers in barracks with strong emphasis that the conditions attached to these must be observed. He said the army has to be the army and a soldier must be a soldier saying "there is no neutral position in this. You are either a professional soldier or you are a menace to society," he averred.
The commander-in-chief described an undisciplined armed force as a threat to national development and the security of a country. He also said an undisciplined force is a threat to the security and freedom of the citizenry."You are here for only one reason and that is to defend the sovereignty of this country, the peace and tranquility and more importantly also protect life and property of everybody that lives in this country," he said. He then stressed that these are not attainable without discipline.
"An undisciplined soldier cannot be considered a loyal soldier because the fact that you are undisciplined means you are violating the rules of the service that you are supposed to uphold to the letter. You are also violating the laws of which you are supposed to defend and so you become more dangerous because you are armed," he added.
President Jammeh further made it very clear that he would not condone any form of indiscipline in GAF as commander-in-chief."There is no way that I would. Many a time, I see many undisciplined soldiers walking on the street dress half. When you wear a uniform, you are more conditioned to be disciplined and you are more obliged to be disciplined than a civilian because you belong to a strict code of conduct. When I see a soldier in uniform half-dressed and smoking a cigarette anywhere I pass that soldier is going home," he warned.
Discipline, he went on, wouldn't be compromised for whatever reason. "So whether the soldiers are in the camp or outside the camp they must be disciplined. Staying outside the camp is not a reason to be undisciplined. We are doing our best to make sure that the entire soldier is accommodated because that is what international standard is. For discipline, there would be no compromise whether you live at home or inside the camp; once a soldier you are always a soldier," he said, while emphasising on the reasons why the sworn-in officers should also stick to their oaths, whether or not in that position, as they are binding on them.
He then stated that whether one is in the army or not those are binding upon you. "Do not say I am no longer a member of the armed forces so I should tell people the secrets of the army, that is unacceptable," he concluded.
Abdoulie Kah, the deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Defence, thanked President Jammeh for continuously promoting personnel of GAF and other sister forces in the country. He also talked about the numerous scholarship packages he [Jammeh] has being offering to the personnel of the various security services, particularly personnel of GAF. "It is because of your generosity we have seen a large number of graduates in the Gambia Armed Forces today than unlike before," said DPS Kah.
DPS Kah acknowledged what he called the remarkable achievement at the Fajara and Yundum Barracks respectively and challenged the personnel of the two barracks to prioritise maintenance of their machinery in ensuring their sustainability.
Also speaking earlier at the ceremony, the deputy CDS, Major General Saikou Seckan, thanked President Jammeh for the trust and confidence he has in him. He promised to be ever loyal to the head of State and the nation.
"I cannot thank you enough for the trust and confidence you continue to bestow in me. I know you trust me too much and I will also live up to expectation and pray to God to continue to guide me to be able to serve you honourably with dignity and respect to be able to realise your dreams for the Gambia Armed Forces," said General Seckan as he took the oaths. "I promised you that my loyalty to you will continue to be unquestionable and my commitment and dedication to duties will be second to none," he further assured.
According to him, he had not wasted any time since his re-instatement into GAF to cooperate with his CDS and his other colleagues at work. He informed the commander-in-chief of the new approach they wish to take at the helm of affairs of GAF. "We wasted no time since we took over to institute weekly reviews of activities whereby all staff officers give account of their achievements for the week and their challenges. Minutes of these review meetings and recommendations are sent to the chief of Defence Staff office to seek advice. This has been very fruitful because it enable us to fish out were challenges and constraints are and next time we improve on them," Seckan told the commander-in-chief.
After renewing his loyalty and commitment to his commander-in-chief, Lieutenant General Ousman Bergie, the CDS of GAF wasted no time to thank President Jammeh for the trust and confidence bestowed on him. He assured the commander-in-chief that he will live up to expectation. General Bargie also used the opportunity to emphasise on the points earlier put forward by the deputy CDS on the approach they [the new management of GAF] intend to take. He said they are committed and loyal and that their chain of command is highly respected.
On their plans to accommodate all soldiers in the barracks, CDS Bargie said this will enhance discipline and will inculcate in them the military professionalism and the traditions that used to exist in GAF. In his view as the CDS, accommodating all the soldiers in the barracks would add significantly in reducing the cost of spending on the government.
"I feel singularly honoured, Your Excellency, to be given the opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude and sincere appreciation for our elevation and as well as my appointment to the highest office of the Gambia Armed Forces. I wish to thank you sincerely for this unique consideration. The appointment and elevation clearly demonstrates your unreserved confidence you bestow on us. We are most humble and grateful for this rare opportunity and I wish to thank you and your government for the visionary leadership and support to the armed forces, which has created the enabling environment for us to effectively carry out our constitutional mandate. We are indeed aware of the challenges and responsibilities that accompany our new appointments," he said.
The CDS further promised to continue to work with the same sense of commitment and diligence that earned them the position and promotion to transform GAF into a highly professional and competent force.
Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, recalled the numerous development and transformation GAF underwent in the Jammeh administration. "I want to thank His Excellency for giving opportunities to all Gambians not just the security services but even the civilian sector and providing the enabling environment for us to work together as a nation and meet the aspirations we set out for ourselves and the vision that he has set for us. This shows great leadership, commitment, loyalty and dedication," she remarked.
The Interior ministerOusman Sonkoreminded the officers of the oaths they took, with emphasis on the oaths of secrecy. He said the oath of secrecy is not only limited to their term of office but remains with them for life, even when they are no more at that position. "As you have already sworn-in you must always remember that whatever decision you are going to take you must remember them," he added.
Other Cabinet ministers that spoke at the ceremony spoke volumes of the numerous transformational strides made in GAF by the Jammeh administration.