The attention of the High Command of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) is drawn to several media publications and reports as regards the self-isolation undertaken by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Major General Yakuba A Drammeh.
The Gambia Armed Forces wishes to state that Major General Yakuba A Drammeh had travelled on an official mission to France from 9 – 14 March 2020 together with another senior officer of the GAF. At the end of their mission General Drammeh together with others returned to The Gambia via Cassablanca, Morocco and arrived in Banjul early morning on Sunday 15 March 2020 onboard a Royal Air Maroc flight. All passengers on board the flight, including the CDS were screened at the airport upon arrival in line with laid down medical protocols and all were found to be negative with no signs and symptoms of the COVID – 19 virus.
It may be pertinent to state that Major General Yakuba Drammeh reported to work on Monday 16 March 2020 to take over office as Chief of Defence Staff of The Gambia Armed Forces following his appointment by His Excellency the President and Commander-In-Chief of The Gambia Armed Forces on 5 March 2020. He was to, among other things, prepare for the formal Handing and Taking Over of office with his predecessor, Lieutenant General Masanneh N Kinteh on Tuesday 17 March 2020 at the Defence Headquarters in Banjul. The in-coming CDS was further tested on two different occasions by a qualified medical doctor after resuming office, all in bid to confirm his status as regards the pandemic, and all the tests results were negative.
The formal Handing and Taking Over of Office, Baton of Command and Pulling – Out ceremony was held on Tuesday 17 March in the form of a colorful parade with outgoing CDS, Lieutenant General Masanneh N Kinteh, dressed in ceremonial uniform with white hand gloves like all members of the parade. Lieutenant General Kinteh was dressed in this attire because the ceremony was about him and not a preventive measure by the outgoing CDS against the COVID-19 virus (as reported by some media outlets); the white gloves are part of the ceremonial dress in the military. After the Pulling-Out ceremony of the outgoing CDS, Major General Yakuba Drammeh took effective command of the Armed Forces and immediately commenced work.
However, before close of business on Wednesday 18 March 2020, the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Yakuba A Drammeh received an official from the Ministry of Health who informed the CDS that they had information suggesting that a 28 – year old Gambian lady from the United Kingdom who had reported to the Medical Research Council with signs and symptoms of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) and tested positive was, apparently or coincidentally, also on board the same flight with him as well as several other people. It has to be stressed that any other Gambian or non-Gambian could have been on board this flight either by circumstance or mere coincidence.
The Chief of Defence Staff was then advised that, in accordance with WHO protocols on COVID – 19 virus prevention, all those on board the flight including him have to self-isolate themselves for a period of 14 days as a preventive measure. Without hesitation, Major General Drammeh complied with the advice and started the self-isolation immediately.
However, it has to be made categorically clear that the decision by the Chief of Defence Staff to self-isolate was to show not only strict adherence to statutory health protocols but more importantly exemplary leadership on his part. Notwithstanding, the decision was also taken at a critical moment following his assumption of office as the Chief of Defence Staff but also at a time when the Gambia Armed Forces started sensitizing her personnel on the preventive measures against the Corona virus. The Armed Forces was also galvanizing resources in readiness to come to the aid of civil authority, at their request to confront the global pandemic. It does not and should not, therefore, in any way be construed as a deliberate attempt on his part or the Armed Forces not to adhere to medical advice.
The Gambia Armed Forces, under the command and leadership of the Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Yakuba Drammeh wishes to assure the general public of its readiness and commitment to fulfilling its constitutional mandate and other assigned roles at all times.
LAMIN K SANYANG
for Chief of Defence Staff