by Samsudeen Sarr
Having been inundated with series of questions from various sources interested in my opinion over the recent replacement of the Gambia’s Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Masaneh Kinteh with his deputy General Yankuba Drammeh and having given the incident the thorough analysis it deserved, I now feel somewhat comfortable to share my conservative deductions. Conservative in the sense that the evidence available for a conclusive perspective is still clouded by the indecisiveness of the Barrow government to give us any reasons. When Jammeh did that during his time the country condemned it for its unorthodoxy but it now looks perfectly normal for Barrow to be doing the same thing, firing high-profile government officials without telling the Gambian people why.
Nevertheless, in my effort to rationalize its generated obscurity, the whole incident finally reminded me of the 2016 political impasse and how it played out at the Gambia Embassy in New York from December 2019 to January 2020. That is a subject I feel very passionate about after coming to terms with its conspiratorial background and regrettable outcome in which our ambassadors struck a dumb deal with Senegal that I will ever chastise for its anti-nationalistic spirit. That is why I will this time treat the topic with unrestrained candor disregarding every precaution and identifying all characters to avoid unnecessary misinterpretations and misrepresentations.
As always, the decision of President Barrow to omit his reasons when relieving General Masaneh Kinteh of his CDS appointment and replacing him with his deputy General Yakuba Drammeh, triggered a tsunami of speculations from different concerned Gambians. And unless the president comes up with a reason, the speculators will continue to dilute the facts and fabricate their own theories.
So like every one else, I intend to share my own hypothesis obtained from the conjectures but dovetailed with the undiluted facts for the readers to make their own judgments.
It is factual that President Adama Barrow removed CDS General Masaneh Kinteh, replaced him with Deputy CDS General Yakuba A. Drammeh and elevated Army Commander General Mamat O. Cham to the position of Deputy CDS for no official reason whatsoever.
Speculators took it from there, alleging that General Kinteh was a compulsive crook, embroiled in an elaborate corruption, embezzling funds in untold amounts belonging to the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF). And that the general in order to maintain his lavish lifestyle developed over the past three years would do whatever necessary to coerce his subordinates into compliance and those resisting were either redeployed out of the extortion syndicate or were cast away in the wilderness. Whether that is true or not is left to President Barrow to clarify for us by simply sharing his reasons publicly; however, one may call it coincidence or the timely whistleblowing but a day or two before his dismissal, the US-based-online Freedom radio made a startling broadcast of a major corruption allegation against CDS Kinteh derived from seemingly reliable sources familiar with the whole scheme. Consequently, with no reason given for suddenly letting the CDS go, the radio host’s exposition from North Carolina literally kickstarted the first wave of the corruption allegations thought to be behind the general’s dismissal.
If that is indeed the actual reason for flushing out General Kinteh then appointing and redeploying him to China as Gambia’s ambassador is at best an outrageous coverup of a serious scandal addressed injudiciously by the government and at worst a disgraceful decision pernicious to Barrow’s credibility as president. Retrospectively, sending him to China in an ambassadorial capacity is evocative of the classic PPP methodology in those days of dealing with white-collar crimes committed by powerful trusted aides. It was dubbed the “ossusu” agreement where “club members,” in financially-strong government position were at liberty to discreetly steal as much government funds as available and when caught or after bankrupting their departments were instantly redeployed somewhere with limited or no funds to squander until the Gambians forgot. In some cases, those looters would steal enough money to voluntarily quit their government jobs and start their own private businesses and still got patronized by the government. Rather than prosecuting them for their blatant crimes, those thieves were left free to enjoy their loots along with broad public admiration for their “Allah-given lucks” whereas the honest ones relying on their salaries and playing by the rules were rebuked for being “Nyaka-Faida” (aimless) or “bugul darra” (having no ambition).
So as long as President Barrow continues to leave us in the dark on why Gen. Kinteh was sent away, every inference pointing to that theory could pass an accuracy test.
If that one cannot get him to tell us why, then what about the version attributing the dismissal of General Kinteh to President Barrow’s intention to soon offer the CDS position to General Mamat Cham his long-time best friend and a choice preferred by President Mackey Sall? That the Senegalese have been twisting his arm for Cham to takeover the position because of his receptiveness to their annexation stratagem of the Gambia which both Kinteh and Drammeh are unresponsive to the proposition. Again, by coincidence or not, President Barrow was in Dakar with President Mackey Sall when General Kinteh was given his dismissal letter. That was cause for suspect.
Notwithstanding, knowing the two generals very well, Kinteh and Drammeh his successor, they function together like one coin of two sides, tail and head. Signifying that where Kinteh is accused of any kind of theft or resisting Senegalese hegemony Drammeh must be an accomplice.
And to assert that Deputy CDS Drammeh didn’t know anything about such important matters associated to the CDS office is tantamount to describing him as a careless or very stupid assistant, which I can bet he is not; unless Gen. Drammeh played a direct or indirect role in bringing his boss down, accepting to replace Kinteh without asking for “the reason” under the given circumstances means that his chances of remaining too long on the job are slim. For if it is about Kinteh stealing army funds, he is a suspect; and if it is about Cham singled out for the job, he will lose it to him soon. Once again, I am urging President Barrow to come out and clear the air or task his defense minister Hon. Faye to do it for him.
That brings me to another mind boggling speculation that the Defense Minister, Shiekh Omar Faye indeed drove the splitting wedge between General Masaneh Kinteh and President Adama Barrow by reporting the CDS for being a disloyal officer harboring greater sympathy to the United Democratic Party (UDP) and to Vice President Lawyer Ousainou Darbo than him. I wouldn’t know why Honorable Faye would say so, because the little I know about Kinteh I don’t think he would be that naive to be overtly showing his loyalty to the UDP or Vice President Darbo over President Barrow. I can however, out of experience, reveal a very treacherous and pervasive practice among certain Gambians, in and out of the army, who would do anything to win the trust of important officers in key positions and would find a means of engaging them in sensitive private discussions while secretly recording everything said just to destroy their careers. An army officer had once been prosecuted by court martial and demoted in rank because of such conspirators. I have also once fallen victim of these unscrupulous rogues. Was CDS Kinteh a victim of such rogues working for Hon. Omar Faye? I don’t want to believe so; but, I believe the CDS knows why he is out. He should also know whether the reason for his removal is favorable to his career or not; if it is only about giving Senegal’s chosen Cham his job, then going to China should save him the trouble of playing cat and mouse game with the Senegalese. But if it is about his corrupt practices then the road to China may never materialized. Only President Barrow could dispelled these probabilities by telling us why his CDS was sacked.
Logically, however, the president redeploying the kind of enemy portrayed in CDS Kinteh to a prestigious position, ambassador to China instead of dismissing, prosecuting or demoting him seem to invalidate the alleged conjecture attributed to the defense minister.
Hon. Faye in a recent interview on the Fatu Network had nothing but good things to say about Gen. Masaneh Kinteh, explaining how when they were serving together in the Gambia National Army (GNA) in the 90s the CDS gave him all his entitled respect as his senior and how he had also reciprocated that esprit de corps. If he therefore had nothing to do with the removal of his “wonderful former junior officer” as alleged, then I think he owes his reputation the obligation in his capacity as defense minister to convince the president to come out with the keenly-sought reason.
Choosing to remain quiet about the damning situation leaves me with the funny feeling that the battle that had erupted among them, the APRC ambassadors during the election impasse in December, 2016 after agreeing together to authorize the Senegalese to takeover the Gambia in the name of forcing Jammeh out and bringing Barrow in, is still being waged within the corridors of power in the Gambia. It had at one time translated into serious enmity between Washington-based Ambassador Shiekh Omar Faye and New York-based Ambassador Dr. Mamadou Tangara, my boss, whom I was deputizing as ambassador to the UN.
Well before the impasse I knew that Dr. Tangara didn’t get along too well with Hon. Shiekh Omar Faye. Hon.Faye in Washington DC was like me in New York City, always showing our loyalty to President Jammeh after he in fact played a pivotal role in reconciling my difference with the former president which I still very much appreciate from him. Nothing to regret about it, if you know what I mean. We were all over the world regularly being heard or read on newspapers promoting the agenda of the APRC government and conducting interviews on the online US-based APRC Radio-One. We may have been the most vocal, although all ambassadors used to commend us in taking the frontline to support the government that appointed us to represent it abroad.
As a result, when the ambassadors clandestinely decided to come together against the Jammeh government they vowed to keep it secret among themselves and to conceal the whole plan from me while continuing to give me the impression that they were with me in the battle to convince the UN Security Council that the election problem in the Gambia didn’t warrant any external military intervention. Thanks to the first secretary at the embassy, Mr. Jaiteh, a straight shooter who was the mission’s lawyer, that the whole story about the deal with Senegal was later explained to me. It was after listening to this honest gentleman that many things started making sense to me including the fact that all my efforts to meet and talk to the UN Senegalese ambassador who defrauded our diplomats, Czar Foday Seck were rejected with the excuse that he was busy with other official duties. I just wanted to warn him about the danger of Senegal starting a war in the Gambia.
I think the ambassadors wanted to exclude Mr. Omar Faye from their secretly-restricted team. Dr. Tangara wouldn’t have wanted him in anyway. I cannot be certain. But Mr. Faye was very close to the Senegalese ambassador to Washington DC, Babacarr Jagne who perhaps hinted him about what was going on in New York.
Faye never wanted to be left out recognizing, like all his colleagues, that it was their only chance for a job in the Coalition Party government standing by to take over from the APRC after Senegal’s help in replacing the government they had loyally served for years.
But Mr. Faye also didn’t want me to know that he had shifted his loyalty to the Senegalese campaign. They all knew that I was not going to accept any offers from Senegal even if my life depended on it.
Ambassador Faye however had Statehouse protocol officer Alagie Ceesay in his team who at the time had accompanied first lady Zianab Jammeh to Washington on a private visit. The guy is Senegalese in mind and body and like Dr. Tangara spent most of his school days in Dakar.
On the other hand, Ambasador Masaneh Kinteh with the majority of the other ambassadors was in Dr. Tangara’s team and had all secretly agreed to a date to tender their resignations from the APRC government if the Senegalese could pull it off.
Faye either didn’t know about that date or got a wind of it and decided to beat them in their game by resigning before anyone. That really angered Dr. Tangara and his team but also hit me like a thunderbolt. Up to that moment Ambassador Faye and Ambassador Tangara had encouraged me as trusted colleagues in support of the APRC government.
In the end, Mr Faye almost failed in his quest to secure a job in the coalition government, thanks to Dr. Tangara and his team. If you can recall, Ambassador Masaneh Kinteh was one of those diplomats invited to Dakar for his appointment-reward as new CDS while for months Faye was ignored roaming in the streets of Banjul until his luck struck for a low-class diplomatic position to Saudi Arabia when Vice President Darbo was foreign minister. Anyway, if for nothing, I will always admire Mr. Faye’s skills of navigating uncharted waters that, for sure, had elevated him to the position of defense minister. I wouldn’t be surprised if President Barrow appointed him vice president tomorrow.
The rest is for you the reader to digest and draw your own conclusion.
I will however conclude by saying this. For those tenacious enough to read this article up to this point, I kindly urge you to inform the lazy readers and every Gambia for that matter about this. That all along I have been trying to educate the Gambians about how unsustainable the current political and security situation in the country is, emphasizing the need to respect and rely more on our security forces than those Senegalese troops having no good intentions for our nation’s welfare. That if Mackey Sall or Adama Barrow or both of them are no longer presidents the Gambia will be in serious trouble with these foreign troops, reminding everyone what happened between Jawara, Babangida and Abacha in the 90s.
Today, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic crippling the economic engine of the world, let us hope that it is not bad enough for France to withdraw their funding of ECOMIG in the country anymore; because if they did, the forces will leave. How well prepared are we for that eventuality given the fact that our army has since the arrival of the foreigners been treated like garbage? That’s extra food for thought.
So until the next publication, thanks a lot for reading.
New York City