By Omar Bah
Miatta Lily French, the Ecowas country representative in The Gambia, has hinted that the West African troops stationed in the country will start winding down their mission unless there is a security situation that might dictate otherwise.
Ambassador French made the comments on Friday at a ceremony marking the official handing over of Commands of the Ecomig forces which sees Colonel Chiekh Omar Tamba giving the baton to Colonel Aly Kane.
The Ecomig troops were deployed into the country in 2017 to restore democracy following former president Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down after his loss in the 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow. However, the continued stay of the troops has generated a lot of resentment among critics of the government who believe they have overstayed their welcome.
But addressing incoming troops commander directly at the ceremony, the Ecowas country rep said: “You (new Commander) have a big shoe to fill and expectations are going to be very high because of the bar that your predecessor has left. But I am sure you come highly recommended and therefore you will live up to our expectations and to the dictates of the mission. You have also come at a time when the dynamics of the Mission are going to change based on what the Heads of State agreed. It is there that the Mission should now start the process of winding down.”
Ambassador French added that the Ecomig Mission has been extended for a year but Ecowas authorities are always concerned about the security situation in the country and what that dictates will also have an impact on what is decided at the end of the day.
“But for now, that (winding down) is the decision that exists and we will start working towards that, bearing in mind always that the security situation is paramount. The reason why we are here is to provide security for Gambia and to ensure that democracy prevails and if there is any threat then we will also respond to that,” she added.
Commenting on the outgoing Ecomig Commander, the Ecowas country rep said: “I have been here for five months and it has been a very good working relationship with you and I will like to wish you all the best. For me, the whole mark of good leadership is not what happens when you are there but what happens when you are leaving and after when you have left. And I believe what you have been able to accomplish will continue to demonstrate itself.”
In his farewell to the outgoing Commander of the Ecomig forces, President Adama Barrow described Colonel Tamba as a professional, frank and trustworthy person. He commended Tamba and his predecessors for nobly serving The Gambia. “ECOWAS wants to use The Gambia as a model, and I am grateful to all the Heads of State for their support. I believe in democracy, and we can entrench it in our country,” Barrow said.
The outgoing Commander Colonel Tamba expressed gratitude to the Gambian people, government and the Ecomig troops for being very supportive to him during his time.
For his part, the incoming Commander Colonel Kane assured the troops of his strong commitment to continue from where his predecessor stopped.