By Lamin Cham
President Barrow has confirmed that the Gambia still awaits 500 more soldiers from the regional body Ecowas to boost the already 500 troops in the country. Addressing a press conference at State House yesterday, Barrow said the expected 500 is in fact part of a request The Gambia made for 1,000 soldiers to remain here after the troops were trimmed down last year.
“We have 500 on the ground now and are expecting 500 to come. We saw the need for security in this transitional period,” the president said.
Commenting on the recent uproar over the undetected entry into the country of top military aides of the former president, Barrow admitted that there were lapses with security at the airport but assured that the necessary action has been taken to avoid a recurrence.
The president said the incident may have drawn a lot of attention but the general security environment has not been that bad over the past year.
On the never-ending debate as to whether he would serve a full five-year term or heed the agreement of three years, the president maintained that this will be “decided” by Gambians. He compared the debate to what happened in Senegal when President Sall intended to serve only five years as opposed to the seven-year mandated by the constitution. “A heated debate erupted in Senegal which ended with the Senegalese people deciding the matter in a referendum. We will not go for referendum but Gambians will be duly consulted over the matter,” he said.
On whether his government will be keen to pursue former president Jammeh for possible prosecution, Barrow said that question is premature as due process must be followed and concrete facts have to be established first and that is why the commissions have been set up.
Asked to respond to criticisms of nepotism and cronyism in his appointments, the head of state said most of his appointees are not personally known to him and dismissed the claims as unfair. “The vast majority of the people appointed are not personally known to my aides or me. We only know them through their CVs and recommendations from competent bodies who vetted them,” the president said. He cited former Interior minister Mai Fatty who he said he knew and interacted with a long time ago. “We talk even up to now, yet he ceased to be a member of the government. So we don’t appoint on based on who we know but in the interest of the nation,” Barrow concluded.