By Alagie Manneh
The Gambia army has given more details regarding its newly launched ‘Operation Restore Sanity’.
The army released a statement on Sunday in which it announced the launch of the operation in light of rising security concerns in the country, but many observers feel details regarding the initiative were scanty.
Dilating on the issue, army spokesman Major Lamin Sanyang last evening told The Standard: “The commander of the operation is Lt Col Omar Bojang. The operation is going to be coordinated from the Republican National Guards headquarters in Banjul. The duration of the operation is two months but subject to review depending on the security situation in the country. The operation is countrywide and not only limited to urban centres. Security challenges are not limited to only West Coast Region or Kanifing Municipality.”
Major Sanyang did not specify the cost of the operation although he disclosed that “logistics and everything” for the undertaking have been provided.
On whether the national guards have powers to make arrests, Major Sanyang said under this operation, they have “full police powers and limited military powers, and therefore, they can effect arrests”.
“They will arrest if there is cause to arrest, process and hand over those arrested to the police for further action,” Sanyang clarified.
He said the army is aware of talks in some quarters regarding not only the legality but rules of engagement of the operation.
“The rules of engagement are not new to us. Our members have been trained in this. Opening fire, that’s the last resort. It is our brothers and sisters out there so we will exercise utmost restraint.”
He said the army would never embark on any undertaking that has no basis in legality.
“The Gambia Armed Forces has a corps of lawyers. Whatever we do, they are always consulted. It’s understandable for people to be apprehensive about legalities, but we make sure we do our best to make sure whatever we do is in conformity with the law. Even the National Assembly committee that some people are complaining should scrutinise us, we are working with them. Let them [the critics] stop confusing the public. They will not succeed in those attempts.”
Major Sanyang said the army could not disclose “every little detail” of the operation for security reasons.
“What they [critics] have to understand is that this is an operation and the criminal is one step ahead of you. So, one has to be cautious on what to reveal. We love this county as much as any other person. If not, 2016 would have been messy but we stood our ground and that’s why we are here today. People should never forget that. We urge members of the public to go on their business and to not panic.”