By Tabora Bojang
Defence Minister Sheikh Omar Faye has said a new Senegalese contingent of over 600 troops to be deployed to The Gambia is not coming purposely as reinforcement for the December elections but on “annual rotation” under the Ecowas military mission.
Talk of the imminent arrival of the Senegalese troops ahead of the much-anticipated presidential election has sparked controversy with arguments that it demonstrates the government’s lack of trust in the ability of the Gambian army to handle internal security issues.
But speaking to The Standard yesterday, Minister Faye said rotation of troops is an acceptable practice in peacekeeping missions.
He said the men are not coming as an additional deployment but to replace the Senegalese soldiers previously deployed in the country.
Ecowas’ Operation Restore Democracy was launched in 2017 to armstrong President Jammeh into giving up when he reneged on his promise to step down after losing the 2016 election to Adama Barrow.
“As the minister of defence I am not aware of any reinforcement. These people [Senegalese soldiers] are on a rotation. It is not a new development. It is only the Ecowas presidents who can determine whether there is a new deployment. That cannot be determined by one country. Everyone who knows peacekeeping understands that sometimes troops rotate every six or twelve months. This is just a rotation. It is an internal routine. If they [critics] don’t know, they have to ask. Security is not politics. This is just like Darfur. Our guys [Gambian soldiers] used to have rotations,”” Faye said.
Minister Faye said in the event of any reinforcement under Ecomig, Gambians “should know about it” and it would also be subject to the National Assembly’s deliberations. He said the government is working through the diplomatic channels to facilitate the movement of the troops.
Senegal’s army chief of staff Brigadier General Fulgence Ndour recently met President Barrow at State House.