By Lamin Cham
As the deadline set by Ecowas for the coupists in Niger to restore the civilian government led by, Mohamed Bazoom or face military action, a former Gambia army commander has warned that Gambia should not contribute troops to any such operation by Ecowas.
Last week Ecowas leaders met in Abuja and set an ultimatum of one week for the junta in Niger to restore the civilian government it overthrew or face the use of force.
Ecowas has since asked its army chiefs in the region to assemble troops for possible deployment to Niger.
But in a writeup shared with The Standard, Retired Col. Samisden Sarr said: “Presently, there are concerns that the Gambia Armed Forces could be involved in the ongoing operational plan by Ecowas member states to assemble a military intervention force that will invade Niger next week and force the new military government to surrender and restore the overthrown government of Mohamed Bazoom.
While this might seem appealing, it is important to consider that not all Ecowas member states are supportive of this expedition. Countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea Conakry are opposing the initiative and even threatening to fight alongside Niger’s soldiers against Ecowas.
It is crucial to remember that during ECOMOG’s initial mission in 1990 to Liberia, some Francophone member states, except Guinea Conakry, refused to participate, considering it an illegal intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Such opposition hindered the operation and prolonged its success”.
Sarr added: “Given the current circumstances, I implore President Barrow, whom I wholeheartedly support, not to approve the participation of the Gambia Armed Forces in this risky and ill-advised mission of attacking Niger. Unless we complete our long-awaited Security Sector Reform (SSR) in the Gambia, our troops should not be deployed in any war, especially one that takes place thousands of miles away. Your Excellency, do not consider this option as I firmly believe that we are not adequately prepared for such an undertaking.
Col Sarr further argued that Nigerian president and Ecowas chairman Bola Tinubu’s enthusiasm for such an intervention, reminds him of the ardent commitment of late President Sir Dawda Jawara in 1990 when, as chairman of Ecowas, he mobilised the first multi-West-African force, Ecomog, to intervene in the Liberian civil war. “Gambian troops, though unprepared for such a mission, were included in the force that landed in Monrovia in September 1990 for peacekeeping and peace enforcement.
Unfortunately, the consequences for the Gambia Army were severe, leaving the troops emotionally and physically scarred and ultimately leading to the army rebellion in 1994 that overthrew the PPP government.
“Without delving into the details of how the situation evolved, it is evident that the army was ill-prepared for the nature and magnitude of the conflict it encountered in Liberia over three decades ago. The sad fate of the two Gambian peacekeepers, Lance Corporal Lamin Bojang and Private Same Jawo, killed in action in Liberia, whose corpses were abandoned without proper evacuation for decent home burial until 1996, is a poignant reminder of the risks involved in such missions,” Sarr said.