By: Dr. Ansumana Darboe
This week, we laid to rest one of our own. A true patriot, a brave, brilliant and tactical soldier. An intellectual per excellence, a great leader and a phenomenal person. Above all, a family man and a strong pillar of our communities in Brikama and Kiang. My uncle, Retired Captain Ebrima Baba Cambi was born and raised in Kiang Karantaba. After primary education in the village, he proceeded to Muslim High School for secondary education. Those who attended Muslim High School between 1979 and 1983 remember his brilliance in not only academics but his involvement in various sporting activities. He was never the average student, he excelled in everything – academic and extracurricular. In fact, he was one of the best students at the school, and he graduated top of his class in 1983.
Cambi’s excellent results qualified him for entry into many other prestigious professions but because of his love for service and eagerness to defend the nation, after witnessing the horrors of the 1981 coup d’état as a young student in Banjul, he chose the military. He enlisted with the 1st intake of the Gambia National Army in 1984. In the army, he rose through the ranks, from a non-commission officer, attending officer training courses to becoming a well-deserved 2nd Lieutenant and subsequent promotions up to the rank of a Captain. Capt. Cambi amassed numerous military trainings in The Gambia as well as overseas, particularly, in the United States. Notably, Fort Benning, GA., known to be the home of the best Army installation in the World.
In July 1994 when some junior officers in the military, most of whom he trained, took over the country, he decided to join the council to help with setting up interim governance structures for the eventual smooth transitioning of the country to democratic rule. Captain Cambi was first appointed Mayor of KMC, but he chose to stay with The Council at State House, serving as Chief of Staff and Logistics.
Captain Cambi was an astute commander; he was a truthful and honest man. He was a charismatic and exemplary military leader who commanded the respect of his colleagues as well as junior officers and was liked by many at State House. He was truly the solder with a difference and these qualities made some unscrupulous senior members of the Junta uncomfortable, leading to his arrest, detention in Mile II, and prosecution on trumped-up charges of possession of military apparel for distribution to factions of the military to stage a coup ’de tat. Interestingly, even after his acquittal on all charges by the Court-martial, the Junta continued detaining him in Mile 11 for more than two years.
After his final acquittal and discharge from mile II in 1997, he joined the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, doing what he knows best, as Head of Aviation Security. In 2005, he was appointed Head of Security and Business Continuity at the MRC, The Gambia, a position he held till retirement. Before his sudden death, Cambi was the Executive Secretary of the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons at the Ministry of Interior. Although, he held so many positions of national and corporate significance, he was never detached from his community and responsibilities at village and district levels. He contributed to every facet of community development in Kiang. He was the Vice Chair of Kiang West Development Organization, the Team Manager of Julafarr Ward 3rd Division football team and a key member of Kiang Karantaba Development Association, where he, until the day of his death, was leading fundraising for the renovation of the village mosque.
The Gambia lost a National Hero, and the people of Kiang lost a great son. Captain Cambi inspired his generation of Kiangkas and those that followed to serve in the Armed Forces with distinction. Prominent among them include. Navy Captain (Colonel) Sambou Barrow, Major Alhagie Njie, Major Lamin Njie, Major Ansumana Sanyang, Retired Captain Kalilu Gassama, Retired Captain Omar Darboe, Captain Ousman Camara, Captain Sambou Barrow, and Captain Lamin B. Camara.
To borrow from renown biographer, Samuel Johnson, “it matters not how a man dies, but how he lives”.
I pray for God’s infinite mercy on my uncle, Retired Captain Ebrima Baba Cambi.
Dr. Ansumana Darboe
Kiang West District