Gambia Army Denies Sexual Abuse of Female Soldiers

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By Lamin Njie

The Gambia Armed Forces has vehemently denied claims of some high-ranking officers sexually harassing female soldiers.

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Reports have on Friday emerged of some senior officers of the army coercing junior female soldiers into sexual relationships. The flatly inappropriate behaviour is said to be particularly common among the army’s peacekeeping missions abroad.

Reacting to the sexual harassment claims on Friday, the spokesman of the Gambia Armed Forces Lieutenant Colonel Omar Bojang told The Fatu Network “this is first time we’re hearing about it.”

The army colonel said: “I would like to tell you that this is not a true story. Members of the Gambia Armed Forces are very professional… They have been into peacekeeping for over three decades now and this allegation has never come up.”

The Gambia Armed Forces is currently participating in a UN-backed peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. ‘Gamcoy 21’ which numbers 208 is commanded by Major Ablie Manneh, assisted by Major Ablie Mboob.

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And the army spokesman says “the UN frowns seriously on issues of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.”

“The records are there to prove that no member of the Gambia Armed Forces has ever been accused, has ever been questioned [or] has ever been caught doing this act,” he said.

And he added: “I’m sure that these men who are there are very professional and that they will not be able to do such a thing that will bring bad image to the Gambia Armed Forces.”

‘Speak Up’

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Lt Colonel Bojang also said any female soldier who is a victim of sexual abuse should speak up as there is a sexual misconduct investigation body at the UN level.

“Whoever is accusing it should know that there is a sexual misconduct body that is responsible for investigating issues of this nature, sexual allegations or sexual harassment at the UN level. So the person can go ahead and lay that complaint and the UN will be very happy to investigate those kinds of issues,” he said.

‘No Sacred Cows’

According to the army spokesman, the Gambia Armed Forces has a “lot of measures in place especially when it comes to the issue of discipline no matter who is involved.”

He said: “There are no sacred cows, there are no untouchables. Whoever is involved in misappropriation of funds, sexual harassment and so on, is normally investigated. Normally, boards are set to investigate those kinds of issues.”

On the whether the army will launch an investigation into the claims, Lt Colonel Bojang said “if it’s true obviously we should be able to investigate and find out and get to the bottom of the matter.”

“These are very serious allegations and the armed forces would not entertain such professional misconduct. If it’s found out to be true, that person will be severely punished.  And as I told you earlier, there are no sacred cows. Whoever is involved in anything of this nature will be surely punished,” he said.

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