The military has shot back at the Constitutional Review Commission over their claim they did not receive any written submission from the military regarding what they want inserted in the country’s new constitution.

Army chief Yakuba Drammeh earlier this month complained after the draft constitution failed to state what role the military would have. The top military official said ‘adhoc interpretations’ of the role of the military would present a problem for it.

The Constitutional Review Commission in responding to the general’s comments said following publication of the proposed draft constitution in November last year, the CRC publicly invited the ‘general public and all other stakeholders to review the Draft Constitution and provide written comments to the CRC’.

“No written submissions were received from The Gambia Armed Forces. However, the written comments and further proposals received from the National Security Adviser were considered in finalizing the Draft Constitution,” the CRC said.

The army have now fired back insisting on Saturday they did submit a letter which contained their observations and suggestions.

The army in a rejoinder signed by spokesman Major Lamin K Sanyang and addressed to The Fatu Network’s Editor in Chief on Saturday said: “The Office of the Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces wishes to unequivocally state that the Armed Forces has no intention of making any unwarranted and unguarded statements or accusations against the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) or any institution for that matter in this country. However, for the avoidance of doubt, the Gambia Armed Forces wishes to set the records straight as regards its submissions on the draft constitution.

“It may be instructive to state that the Defence Headquarters received a correspondence from the CRC in December 2019 in which the Commission requested the Gambia Armed Forces to submit inputs relating to its mandate, functions and other roles. This, according to the correspondence was to enable the Commission to include the inputs into the Draft Constitution. On the basis of this, the Chief of Defence Staff constituted a Regimental Board tasked with the responsibility of formulating the appropriate inputs while making reference to best military practices from all over the world, the 1997 Gambian Constitution as well as constitutions of other countries. The aim was to ensure that the Gambia Armed Forces’ contributions were not only substantive but were also based on what obtains in most English speaking countries within the region.

“After completion of its work and reviewed by the Convening Authority, the inputs by GAF were duly submitted to the Commission before the publication of the first Draft of the Constitution. However, to the dismay of the GAF High Command, the inputs were not reflected or captured in the Draft Constitution upon review by the Defence Headquarters. Accordingly, the Gambia Armed Forces wrote a letter (Reference DHQ/280/A) to the Constitutional Review Commission dated 23 December 2019 which was delivered by the GAF Dispatch Clerk and it was received at the CRC Office by the Receptionist, Madam Ya Sainey Jobe on 24 December 2019. The letter contained observations as well as suggestions on the first Draft that the Gambia Armed Forces considered to be essential to be included in the final Draft. Although our clerks’ Way Book showed receipt of the letter by the Commission through Madam Ya Sainey Jobe, the Gambia Armed Forces is therefore surprised and disappointed by the Commission’s claim, through their rejoinder to the Fatu Network in which they stated that they had not received any written submissions from the Gambia Armed Forces. Moreover, the Gambia Armed Forces, upon request by the ONS, also forwarded this same submission to the Office of National Security (ONS) which had compiled all the inputs from the other Security Services including The Gambia Armed Forces for onward transmission to the CRC. As a matter of fact, the Constitutional Review Commission in its response to the Fatu Network as regards the submission by the ONS confirmed that “the written comments and further proposals received from the National Security Adviser were considered in finalizing the Draft Constitution”. Going by this statement, it can be deduced that the CRC had actually received not only the submission by the ONS but equally those by the Armed and Security Services including the Gambia Armed Forces. Otherwise, this is a glaring contradiction by the CRS that the Commission needs to further clarify for better understanding as to which ONS submission they were referring to.

“Furthermore, when the CRC published the final Draft Constitution, it was once again observed with dismay that the Draft had not captured most of GAF’s submissions and observations that were contained in both the letter from the Defence Headquarters and the submissions by the ONS. Perhaps, it is instructive to note that the expected roles and functions of militaries all over the world are always succinctly captured in the Constitution of any given nation rather than leaving them to a future provision of an Act of the National Assembly. This is true for Nigerian, Ghanaian, Kenyan and Senegalese constitutions, just to mention a few.

“However, when all these efforts failed and given the sensitive nature of this issue, our observations were brought to the attention of the Ministry of Defence through a letter (Reference DHQ/280/A) dated 22 April 2020 in which the MOD was requested to engage and draw the attention of the CRC to the concerns of the Armed Forces on the matter. Besides, to the consternation of the High Command, the CRC as an institution neither wrote back to at least acknowledge receipt or otherwise of all of our submissions, for whatever reasons, in all these two occasions.

“While it is not our intention to engage either directly or indirectly in any verbal or written confrontation with the Commission, it is our expressed and/or professional view that these omissions are serious and could have the potential to significantly limit the constitutional mandate, function and roles of the Gambia Armed Forces to the detriment of our national security and socio-economic development. It has to be reiterated that in the process of reviewing the draft to generate GAF’s inputs, we were cognizant of some of the provisions relating to the peacetime and war-time functions and roles of the military of other countries within the sub-region. These core roles, functions and mandates are similar and synonymous to most militaries all over the world. They are as follows: to preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of The Gambia against external aggression; to aid the civil authorities, at their request, in emergencies and in case of natural disasters; [and] to engage at the request of the civil authorities in productive activities, such as agriculture, engineering, health and education for the development of The Gambia.

“While sub-paragraph (a) is a mandate common to militaries the world over, it is however instructive to stress that the other functions reposed on the Gambia Armed Forces in sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) are performed only at the request and instance of civilian authorities. This unequivocally denotes that the Gambia Armed Forces should be accountable and subordinate to civil authority. This is necessary to justify its existence as a vibrant nation defence instrument. With that said, it is our expressed and professional opinion that in as much as these are functions provided for militaries all over the world, the 1997 Constitution had similar provisions for the Gambia Armed Forces which we hope should have been included in the Draft Constitution.

“On a final note, while we commend the Commission for coming up with a Constitution that would usher in the Third Republic, it is our considered professional view that our roles and functions should be defined clearly in the Constitution without ambiguity and/or direct or indirect subjective interpretations. This would ensure that the military performs its constitutional mandate and other assigned roles both in peace time and during emergencies thereby enhancing national peace and security.

“Finally, we wish to reiterate that the Gambia Armed Forces, like all Gambians wishes to see a Constitution that would stand the test of time. Accordingly, the GAF is more than willing to engage the CRC constructively on this important national security matter as appropriate.”