By Fatou Dahaba
Major General Mamat O. Cham has taken over the position of the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) of The Gambia from retired Lieutenant General Yankuba Drammeh, who served as the country’s security chief over the last three years.
Drammeh decided to retire from the service after serving The Gambia Armed Force for almost 39 years. Today, 12th October 2023, he handed over the baton of command and office to the incoming CDS Major General Mamat O. Cham at Defense headquarters in Banjul.
CDS Drammeh was appointed from 5th March 2020 to 29th August 2023, when he decided to proceed with statutory retirement at 60 after serving the country for almost 40 decades of fulfilling military journey.
Delivering his farewell statement, retired Lieutenant General Drammeh advised the new CDS to ensure that the Gambia Armed Force remains apolitical, saying it is his conviction that if the military is divided politically, it’s dangerous to the people they’re serving.
As he handed over the chain of command to the new CDS, he reminded him of how they had started the journey with consultation to strengthen military-civilian relationships, as the public used to have a bad perception of the military.
He said this was not his decision alone but agreed exclusively as a team, and they consulted among themselves and realized that it was the best trajectory for the military.
According to him, one area they agreed unanimously was to take the military out of politics, and this was a consensus they took.
He continues to caution the new CDS to make sure the armed forces are not tribal and religious inclined while encouraging them to continue to explore innovative ways and measures to ensure it sustains civil-military cooperation and engagement at all times, to respect the human rights of the people and to continue capacity building and training for service men and women as well as to ensure the inter-service relationship between sister forces are maintained.
The Outgoing CDS said it was evidence that the armed force was divided when he took over the base on political and tribal lines. Today, they have changed that equation ultimately because they believe moving forward in a democratic setting, the armed forces should not partake in politics.
‘My vision was guided by four key priority areas: having a vibrant, effective leg, intimate trai,n and equipped armed force that will be well, highly professional, transparent, subordinate, and accountable to a democratic civilian control authority. An armed force sensitive and responsive to the needs and aspirations of all Gambians and non-Gambians alike.’
Dilating on the achievements under his tenure, the outgoing CDS said the 2021 and 2022 reports of the National Human Rights Commission indicated that GAF is well reformed, has nothing against the armed forces, and the military has committed no crime since he took over.
‘Today, I feel proud and satisfied that I have achieved the redemption to build the image of the armed forces as a critical player in the societal architecture of this country.
‘I started the journey with a vision to rebrand, recalibrate, restructure, reorganize, and refocus the well-intended trajectory of GAF, to have an armed force that will be more professional, integrated, flexible, cohesive, network, effective in the way they discharge as constitution mandated their roles and functions.’
The new CDS Major General Mamat O. Cham assured that his leadership will usher in fresh ideas as advised by his predecessor and will open new avenues to achieve the transformation agenda of the armed forces.
He said GAF under his command will remain loyal and uphold the tenets of the constitution and the rule of law.
He added they will be resolute in upholding the principles of justice, fairness, and equity. Therefore, rewards, benefits, and sanctions will be strictly based on merit, competency, commitment, and conduct.
“Armed Force under my command will be an apolitical armed force, subserve to legally constituted authority and power, law-abiding but equally highly trained, equipped, and motivated to perform its constitutional roles at home and abroad. My leadership will conquer capacity building, confidence building, and cooperation.”