Lieutenant General Masanneh N. Kinteh Chief of Defence Staff, Gambia Armed Forces
I humbly submit this personal appeal to you for the reinstatement of Colonel Kawsu Sanyang to the Gambia Armed Forces. News on Social media has it that on 3 December 2018, acting on the powers delegated to you by Section 12 (c) of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) Act Cap 19 Vol. III Laws of The Gambia 1985, you discharged Colonel Sanyang from the Gambia Armed Forces ‘with immediate effect.’ My apologies if the above isn’t right!
CDS Sir, you might wonder who I am and what audacity I have to address such a letter to you. I am only a citizen and a longtime admirer of CDS Masanneh Kinteh. Our paths crossed on few occasions in the past during which you left me with some great impression about your personality. I once worked at an institution where you, as CDS at the time, served as a Board Member. I had the privilege of being a scribe in the said board taking minutes of few meetings that you attended. I must admit that during such meetings, your general comportment, you sublime modesty and contributions to the discussions all made me your great admirer.
In your letter to Colonel Kawsu Sanyang, you made reference to the ‘powers conferred’ on you. I definitely know that you didn’t make such reference out of pomposity. I also am not holding brief for Colonel Sanyang because I do not know the exact circumstances that warranted his dismissal. Nor am I blinded by emotions over his dismissal in addressing these lines to you. But in life, when you know certain positive aspects of someone’s personality that could attract clemency on the part of anyone that they might have wronged, you are obliged to throw light on such humane traits with the hope that someone somewhere might rethink and use their prerogative of mercy.
I cannot claim to know Colonel Sanyang more than you. You have worked with him for more than a quarter of a century. There is definitely no doubt that you know him well. But some of us too– classmates, village mates, colleagues, members of his community – know him very well indeed. Some of us can attest, without any fear of exaggeration, that Colonel Sanyang has always had outstanding work ethics all his life. He has demonstrated such moral rectitude with the keenest sense of purpose and industry. To his colleagues, he is an inspiration as regard his appetite for teamwork. To the hundreds, possibly thousands of soldiers he trained, he is a figure of tremendous impressiveness, an incisive and charismatic personality capable of instilling the right professional aptitude to a young population. To members of his community, Colonel Sanyang commands deep respect and esteem for always advocating and articulating the sense of purpose, unity and service for the common good. It is therefore no coincidence that his devotion to duty, his adherence to a lifestyle that is marked by strict discipline and loyalty, and his enduring personality have all combined to endear him to everyone he has lived and worked with.
Colonel Sanyang might have done or said something that is in breach of some core values of your great institution that you swore to uphold and protect at all cost as required of you by the terms of reference of your high office. Or, he might have offended some higher authority who instructed you to act in accordance with the powers vested on you. We all know that leadership calls for making decisions that are both pleasant and unpleasant. I am sure dismissing him might have been one of those unpleasant ones for you. But if you had something bigger than both you and Colonel Sanyang to safeguard and protect, you would act accordingly to protect that bigger picture. That, you did!
Nonetheless, considering his length of service in the Gambia Armed Forces, considering his outstanding contribution to the professional development of the men and women of your institution, considering his impeccable tract record of hard work, loyalty and respect for authority, considering that he is a bread winner of a large family, and considering the fact that he, like many of your esteemed officers, contributed in no small measure in ushering in the new dispensation in our beloved country that we are all proud of and enjoying now, it is just normal that dismissing him for reasons relative to expression of personal will and freedom will naturally attract calls for clemency on your path or on the part of anyone who ordered you to do so.
What is on social media (and social media is not always accurate!) is that Colonel Sanyang might have said something untoward regarding governance in The Gambia which was in breach of the Gambia Armed Forces penal code. But you know, as well as everyone else, that every Gambian worked hard to bring about a change that guarantees personal choice, will and freedom; that this new dispensation, as opposed to the one before it, assures freedom of conscience as well as tolerance in divergent positions. Of course we know that there are some instances in some quarters where such freedoms can be badly misconstrued and be open to abuse. Indeed our new-found democracy, one that we all toiled hard to create, should not be taken for granted. We cannot allow any acts or omissions that will make our country slide into lawlessness. To borrow the cliché, not anymore! That said, anyone who knows Colonel Sanyang well can comfortably attest that by his status and disposition, he cannot be said to have misunderstood and misinterpreted the new democratic space in his office, institution or country.
CDS Sir, it is not abnormal for people to like or loathe a person or a system. Hating and loving are as old as the hills. As a true Muslim, you know that many, if not all, of our revered prophets met the stiffest resistance, hatred and opposition in their lives that for want of space, we cannot detail here. Yet, they persevered and forgave! Make no mistake, not everyone at GAF likes you as CDS. Someone there would have wished that you never came back to lead them as CDS. They had someone else in mind. Certainly not everyone in the country loves our President Adama Barrow. Someone didn’t want him from day one. Someone wants him to leave office today. Someone wants him to serve for only three years; some five, some for next twenty years, and some as long as he is alive. That’s natural and normal. If anyone who expresses dissenting voice has to attract our wrath, if everyone who has a different viewpoint has to be reprimanded, then the victory we all fought for and won with pride two years ago would be meaningless.
CDS Sir, it is on the basis of the aforementioned that I come to you, knees on the ground to beg you to rethink, forgive and reinstate Colonel Sanyang. A weak leader cannot forgive. Fogginess is the attribute of the strong, not of the weak. Forgiving him doesn’t make you a weak CDS. Forgiving him doesn’t mean you have succumbed to pressure, social, political or whatever. Forgiving him only makes you stronger, more humane, more virtuous and indeed more Gambian. By forgiving and reinstating Colonel Sanyang, you and all those who love and admire you, would be proud that another beautiful page has been added to a glorious legacy. If it was someone above you Colonel Sanyang did wrong, which in this case can only be His Excellency the President, I appeal that you prevail on him on Kawsu’s behalf for clemency. In one of his recent speeches the President is on record saying, in no unambiguous terms, that he is here for all Gambians. Meaning, whether you like or loathe him, he is ready to serve all. If you appeal to him on Kawus’s behalf, he will listen to you. He will understand you and will give you directives to rescind your decision. That too is positive for him and his presidential legacy. By doing so, he would have proven to all and sundry that he is a President with a difference; that he could dine with both his lovers and his staunchest critiques and still deliver the goods to both camps without the slightest hesitation. The Gambian cannot move forward by what we say, but by what we do. I believe you can do it. Less we all forget, not all critiques are haters, just as not all singers are lovers! By reinstating Colonel Kawsu Sanyang, there will only be one winner, CDS Kinteh. Allah Knows Best!
If I have said anything here that touches your nerves, it is not intended. That is my deficiency of expression! Salaam my dear brother! May Allah bless The Gambia more and more.
Demba Ceesay Citizen