The art of Public Relations (PR) involves managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization and the public. Over the years, so many institutions have used the services of Public Relations Officers to maintain contact with their partners in several spheres of human endeavor. The Gambia Armed Forces is not an exception to this reality and as such created a Public Relations Department to inform the public, the media, opinion leaders and other stakeholders about its activities.
The Gambia National Army Public Relations Department (APRD), now the Gambia Armed Forces Public Relations Department (GAF PRD) was established in 1992 by the Nigerian Army Training Advisory Group (NATAG) to serve as the mouth piece of the National Army and to bridge the communication gap between the general public and the military. Today, the GAF PRD performs several other roles within and outside GAF owing to the unprecedented growth and expansion that the Gambia Armed Forces is undergoing. It is therefore imperative that the department is put on a firm footing to meet up with the challenges that accompany such growth.
History of GAF PRD
The GAF PRD still remains the mouth piece of the GAF tasked with the responsibility of bridging the communication gap between the general public and the military. At the inception, the NATAG posted one officer with 2 soldiers of the Gambia National Army (GNA) to serve under the APRD; Ex Lt Alhagie Kanteh, WOI Kujabi Tijan and Ex-SSgt Sowe Momodou. The department was headed by Maj Ayo, a Nigerian Officer. After the July 22 Revolution, the NATAG withdrew and Ex Lt Alhagie Kanteh was appointed the first GNA Public Relations Officer. Since then many officers held this prestigious appointment including the present CDS Lt Gen Masanneh N Kinteh, Brig Gen (Rtd) Serign Modou Njie and Cdre Madani Senghore, among others.
The department in partial fulfillment of its roles created its first military newsletter called Esprit de Corps, although the paper had a short lifespan. However, in July 2008 the Gambia Armed Forces through the GAF PRD backed by a sound editorial team established its Magazine called the Ahooah magazine. The office has so far produced 18 editions and the 19th is at advanced stages of publication. With all these gains, the office continues to serve as the image maker for the GAF.
Roles and Responsibilities of GAF PRD
The Gambia Armed Forces Director of Press and Public Relations is answerable to the Chief of Defence Staff on all communications and media matters. He/ She is the official spokesperson and mouth piece of the GAF. His/ Her functions include the following:
- He is the official head of the GAF Directorate of Press and Public Relations and shall exercise oversight responsibility over the Department.
- He/ She shall organize and coordinate all media briefing with media houses to update them and the general public on issues of national importance relating to the armed forces.
- He/ She shall use all available mediums to disseminate the official position of the Armed Forces on issues of importance for public consumption.
- He/ She shall advise the Chief of Defence Staff on all media matters directly affecting the Gambia Armed Forces.
- He/ She shall supervise staff under the purview of the Public Relations department to improve their welfare and operational efficiency.
- Develop a media and communications doctrine for the efficient operation and administration of the department.
- Coordinate training in media and mass communication to develop a pool of skills for effective and efficient operation of the department.
- Exercise oversight responsibility over the department to promote discipline and enhance efficiency among staff.
- He/ She shall coordinate efforts to ensure the promotion of cordial Civil-Military Relations within the armed forces and with the civilian population.