By Olimatou Coker
Drug trafficking is presenting a “serious threat” to the peace and stability of The Gambia, a permanent secretary of the Interior ministry said Tuesday.
Louis Moses Mendy said it is also terrorising our young democracy and development.
“For this reason, my ministry places high premium on the fight against organised crimes and drug trafficking with a view to ensuring that we have a crime-free society.”
The DPS was speaking at the opening of a two-week training of trainers (ToT) course, organised in Senegambia.
It was designed for 15 officers of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency The Gambia, (DLEAG) organised by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime.
The training is part of a project funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, and being implemented by UNODC.
It seeks to enhance capacities to detect and investigate cross-border organised crime in The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.
And Mendy added that since the change of government almost two years ago now, a comprehensive security sector reform agenda is being pursued in conjunction with other development priorities.
“It is imperative to note that drug traffickers are highly sophisticated in their operations,” he opined, “and as such, combating them demand the use of intelligent approach, and modern technology.”
Interior minister Ebrima Mballow said over the years, The Gambia remains a “target” for drug trafficking organisations, who he disclosed are taking advantage of “our strategic geographical location to both South America and Europe to transit their drugs”.
“Therefore, any gesture that will help reorient and prepare our law enforcement officers in terms of capacity building and equipment support to respond adequately to the illegal and clandestine activities of drug trafficking organisations is highly welcomed.”
Ms Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, the UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident rep in The Gambia, said West African States are faced with challenges, such as cross border crimes.
However, she added: “Over the past few years, these states have demonstrated their political commitment to make the fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime a priority.”
To au fait growing drug related challenges, Lekoetje said in collaboration with other UN systems, several initiatives seeking to promote cooperation within the region have been developed and a comprehensive regional approach adopted.
The director general of DLEAG, Bakary Gassama, said training of law enforcement officers was a “key pillar” of the security sector reform, saying since reform cannot happen without reorienting officers who are in charge of enforcing the law.
“Criminal organisations,” he stated, “are now becoming the most powerful and influential interest groups on the planet. They are building alliances and networks to further their money-making illegal initiatives. With the observance of democracy and rule of law, they can draw incentives from the weakness of law enforcement capacity by clearing their way out of court relying solely on technicalities.”
Ms Anita Martin of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Dakar, said of their expectations at the end of the two-week programme:
“We hope the training will strengthen your grasp of substantive topics and provide you with the teaching skills and methods to be able to train your future colleagues on detection, investigation, profiling, intelligence and surveillance of cross-border.”