By Tabora Bojang
President Adama Barrow has said the West African troops ECOMIG are very much needed in The Gambia as a continuous backup force to allow for smooth completion of the country’s security sector reforms.
The mission was deployed to The Gambia following weeks of political stalemate after exiled former president Yahya Jammeh refused to accept the 2016 electoral defeat to then president-elect Adama Barrow who was inaugurated while in temporary exile in Senegal.
The deployment helped facilitate Jammeh to leave the country and paved the way for Barrow to return to the Gambia on January 26, 2017. They have since stayed in the country and their continuous presence has many times been criticised by the opposition.
Speaking to journalists at an open press conference for the first time in about three years, following his re-election over the weekend, President Barrow said: “The Ecowas soldiers are not only here to help in removing Jammeh but to serve as stabilising presence for the country to reform its security which was really polluted under Jammeh,” he said.
He said the reforms include holistic measures such as training, right sizing, and restructuring.
“Right now, we are training most of the State Guards outside. We still did not get the numbers we wanted for the State House. We are still limited,” President Barrow said.
“When I was coming, our security sector was really polluted and we needed to reform. As part of those reforms we needed was a backup force to support us to reform,” Barrow said.
“This is the first time we have audited and profiled the security sector. We need the right size and as we are doing that, we need a backup force to do all these processes. It is not easy to do these things simultaneously and it takes a lot of time. I could not believe that after 50 years we [Gambia] did not even have a security policy and there was no strategy and there was no military policy. All these things were drafted now,” he said.
“People think it is easy but it took us time. This is not the only country where we have foreign forces. They [foreign forces] were in Liberia for 12 years. They were also in Guinea Bissau and other countries. These are forces from ECOWAS and Gambia is not even paying anything. They are here to support us. It is just like if you’re working on your farm and somebody comes and wants to support you for free and you are still complaining. Huh! No,” President Barrow added.