By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow has formally made a request to Ecowas for an extension of the Ecomig forces’ stay in The Gambia.
Addressing the 57th ordinary session of the Ecowas Heads of State in Niamey, Niger, President Barrow said: “Given the reforms underway and the need to protect the fragile democracy in The Gambia, I avail myself this privilege to request for the extension of the mandate of Ecomig in The Gambia. It should be noted that our Security Sector Reform is at an advanced stage and, for the first time, an audit exercise has been conducted in the army and a policy developed. The reform process remains sensitive,” noting that the previous government had molded the security apparatus of the country to serve as a repressive mechanism.
“As such, a range of uncertainties, including right sizing and profiling the Armed Forces, matters of disarmament and demobilisation of troops remain complicated matters to address. As the reform process is ongoing, the Government and its partners need to work with caution in order to complete the process successfully.”
The Gambian leader argued that the presence of Ecomig in the country will be a stabilising factor, while providing, at the same time, the required capacity building support for the viable implementation of the security sector reforms.
The president’s request came barely 24 hours after the Ecowas Mediation and Security Council also recommended for the Ecowas commission to extend the troops’ stay.
The Gambia Government, President Barrow added, is ensuring that its human resource and structures are appropriate for the country’s national security needs, and that the men and women in the armed and uniformed services play a meaningful and positive role in national development.
Barrow added that West Africa’s political and security threats, including electoral issues and their negative calls for urgent attention and engagement with partners to find durable solutions.
“Having said this, I appreciate the efforts undertaken by the ECOWAS Commission and its partners in curbing terrorism in West Africa, especially in the Sahel Saharan Region and the Lake Chad Basin. We should all endeavour to ensure that the concrete steps proposed during our last assembly in Abuja are implemented to the fullest through collaboration and, of course, the support of our development partners,” he added.
On the situation in Mali, the Gambian leader applauded the ECOWAS Mediation team headed by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, for the position taken to broker dialogue and foster a lasting solution to the impasse in the Republic of Mali.
“Having reviewed and taken decisions on the situation in Mali, in line with ECOWAS protocols relevant to Democracy and Good Governance, the Community needs to ensure that the transition programme is followed as stipulated and that, at the end of the process, the country successfully returns to normal constitutional order,” he said.