Some Gambian soldiers in Farafenni, are complaining about poor lodging conditions, lack of sufficient quality food, among others. The soldiers, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of possible reprisal from their superiors, said the monthly food ration for the barracks is not serving its desired purpose. The complaining soldiers believe that their ration is being sliced and sold for commercial purposes. It has been alleged that rice and baking flour meant for soldiers feeding have started surfacing in market shops in the area. Although, Army Spokesman Lt. Colonel Omar Bojang, has categorically denied the allegations in a phone interview with the Freedom Newspaper.
As evident on these pictures, the soldiers at Farafenni, are now sleeping in army dormitories without sling. The conditions of the beds used to cater for the transferred former State Guard soldiers are also appalling, according to the protesting soldiers.
“We are usually fed with half loaf of bread for breakfast. The quality of the mayonnaise is not good. We eat more bread than rice. Our rice ration has also been reduced. They used to supply us 100 bags, but now it has been reduced to 90 bags. The same thing happens to our flour ration. We are suffering,” said one of the soldiers.
Contacted for comment, Army Spokesman Lt. Colonel Omar Bojang said he was home and was not in the office to be able to verify the veracity of some of the allegations contained in the report. The Army spokesman, however, maintained that the lodging conditions of the men and women in uniform is not that bad as inferred in our journalistic query.
“I don’t know whether that’s actually true. We just returned from Chief of Defense Staff tour and the conditions there is not very bad as you are putting it. We visited all the barracks throughout the country. We started the tour on June 22 and we ended the tour on July 2nd. We had the opportunity to visit all our barracks,” Mr. Bojang said.
Regarding the allegations that the monthly ration supply for the Farafenni soldiers have been reduced, Lt. Colonel Bojang remarked: “I have to check the statistics, but one thing that I know; we have increased our feeding impress to our units. You might recall that we have disbanded the former state guard. Some of the soldiers have been posted to Farefenni, and Fajara. So, that has increased the strength of our soldiers, but that does not mean that we are not feeding them. There is a responsibility that we owe to our troops, especially if you are on guard on twenty-four hours. We feed you.”
Lt. Colonel Bojang also vehemently rejected allegations that the soldiers’ food ration is being sold to the public. He describes such reports as totally false and unfounded.
“That cannot be true because the rice that we give to our soldiers doesn’t have a specific trademark. So, none of our soldiers, or an officer would be able to take that rice that is meant to feed the troops and in turn sell it. That’s a serious allegation; and if it comes to the notice of the army leadership, it would be investigated,” he stated.
Mr. Bojang noted that the Gambia is a developing country, but government is doing its very best to cater for the needs and welfare of our security personnel. He said soldiers are paid rent allowance if they decide not to live in the barracks.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai