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Madi Jobarteh tells CSO security reform forum

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By Omar Bah

A member of the civil society and activist has said the continuous presence of the West African troops Ecomig in The Gambia is purely Senegal’s interest.

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Madi Jobarteh also blamed the slow pace of the security sector reform on the lack of political will of the Gambian authorities.

Jobarteh was addressing representatives from the civil society and security forces last week at the validation and development of a CSO engagement strategy on the SSR, organised by the Center for Research and Policy Development, CRPD, through funding from Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund (ATJLF).

Jobarteh stated that the continuous presence of Ecomig is undermining the territorial integrity of The Gambia. “Can you imagine what is happening in Foni?” Jobarteh asked.

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He added: “Though security sector reform is so fundamental particularly for societies like ours that came out of autocratic rule, there is limited will from the security and political leadership to push for the needed reforms.”

He argued that the civil society should come up with a strategy to ensure that the security leadership obtains the will and the commitment to bring about the needed reforms in the sector.

“Because without reforms not only will our rights be hugely hampered but at the same time our economic development would be severely undermined. Just take a look at the budget and the amount of money that is provided for security institutions and evaluate the value and what we get in return. The military alone is allocated over a billion dalasi or more to maintain barracks, pay salaries and at the end of the day you ask yourself how much is a colonel contributing to the economic development of the country? You look at the Immigration, how secure is our immigration situation or law enforcement?” Jobarteh quizzed.

According to him, the country cannot achieve a tangible SSR in the absence of a National Security and National Security Council Act to define the obligations and powers of the National Security Council and National Security Adviser.

“You think, if the Office of the National Security Adviser calls the Director of NIA, he will answer to him. No, because that man is a king unto himself or you think the CDS or the IGP will answer to the National Security Adviser. No, because I have not seen it in any law,” he added.

He said in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France or even Senegal the National Security Adviser is the person closest to the ear of the president while the National Security Council deals with policing, economic, social and political issues.

“So, our SSR is in shambles and that is simply because our civil society is not playing its role,” he stated. 

Commenting on the overall objective of the meeting, Sait Matty Jaw, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Research and Policy Development (CRPD), said the convergence is organised to assess the stage of implementation and define a strategy for civil society organisations to engage in the SSR process.

“The CSOs engagement strategy on security sector reform and governance is basically intended to serve as an entry point for civil society to be able to engage in the SSR process because our role is basically to provide oversight and contribute in the democratisation process of the security institutions,” Jaw added.

He said the engagement is targeted to last for five years and the expectation is that it would help the security services to understand the role of the CSOs and how they also want to engage.

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