By Omar Bah
Lamin Sanyang, the PRO of the Gambia Armed Forces has called on Gambians to be patient with the West African troops, Ecomig, after a survey conducted by Afrobarometer suggested that at least one million Gambians think that the regional forces who were deployed to the country to uphold the 2016 election results should leave.
“I think the Gambian people should be patient with Ecomig to allow them complete their mandate because peace missions are sometimes too complex and will need time to be successfully completed,” he told The Standard via telephone yesterday.
He explained that there is no duplication in the roles of the Ecomig and GAF, adding that security and preservation of territorial integrity is in the hands of GAF and that has not changed.
PRO Sanyang also went on to state that the Gambia Armed Forces continues to be loyal to national service.
“GAF have never betrayed Gambians and we shall never do that. The impasse is a clear indication that our loyalty is to Gambians.
There were insinuations to get us involved but we refused because we knew if we had intervened we will not be where we are today,” he said.
“This is why immediately after the change we arrested all the Junglers who were one of us and made them appear in uniform at the TRRC to demonstrate that we have nothing to hide.
“There are people who may not agree with the survey but I think it is a good thing because you cannot have better armed forces to work for you other than your own,” he stressed.
The survey conducted by Afrobarometer suggested that “Gambians are divided as to whether it is time for ECOMIG to leave and for the Gambia Armed Forces and police to take charge of security matters in the country.
Half (50%) of all citizens “agree” or “strongly agree” that ECOMIG has served its purpose and should leave, while 44% “disagree” or “strongly disagree” and want ECOMIG’s stay extended. “The disparity shows that while many Gambians may be regaining confidence in the armed forces and the police, there is still a significant proportion who are reluctant to leave security matters solely to them”, the survey stated
Afrobarometer is a nonpartisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance and economic conditions in African countries.
The Afrobarometer team in the Gambia, led by the Centre for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies (CepRass), interviewed 1,200 adult Gambians in July and August 2018.
It says the call for ECOMIG to leave is strongest in the West Coast Region (54%), where several disputes between local residents and the Senegalese ECOMIG contingent have been reported.
For instance, ECOMIG soldiers have been accused of killing one protester and injuring others in Kanilai, Jammeh’s village (AllAfrica, 2017), as well as harassing and denying residents the right of free movement (Gambia News Today, 2018),” the survey states.
“A preference for an ECOMIG exit is stronger among educated Gambians (57%-59%) than among those with no formal education (38%).
Men (52%) and urban dwellers (51%) are slightly more likely than women (48%) and rural residents (47%) to prefer that the regional military forces leave.
And young adults (56% of those aged 18-35) are considerably readier for an ECOMIG departure than their elders (41%-43% of those aged 36 years and above) (Figure 9).”
According to the survey majority of Gambians say they trust the Gambia Armed Forces (65%) and police (60%) “somewhat” or “a lot.”
Six in 10 (61%) say the Gambia Armed Forces “often” or “always” protect the country from external and internal security threats, and half (50%) say members of the military are respectful to citizens. However, only 37% say the armed forces get the resources they need to be effective.