By Musa Bah
Hello Mr President, Even the errant Yahya Jammeh advised you about the indispensability of peace and security in a country during his insincere concession to you after the election. I bring to your attention once again that peace and security is one ingredient of development that cannot be absent. If this is absent then there is no need to talk about progress of development.
But today, Mr President, I do not want to go into the nitty-gritty of how peace and security is a prerequisite of development; rather, I want to discuss one of the ways to attain, maintain and enjoy peace in our country. This is through a robust, well trained, well equipped and highly motivated police force. The police is one of the most important apparatuses of security. In The Gambia though, they are not given the regard due to them.
Mr President, do you know that for the twenty-two years that Yahya Jammeh has ruled this country not once did he set foot at the Police Headquarters? Yes, that is right, not even once! Perhaps he had his reasons but what a citizen like me learns from the lukewarm attitude towards the police is that because he was a dictator, he was more concerned about his own security than that of the ordinary citizens like me.
Thus he concentrated more on the Gambia Armed Forces instead of the Gambia Police Force. You on the other hand will not do that, I’m sure. You are a democrat and that means the security and development of your people will be paramount in your agenda. Please, Mr President, pay particular attention to the development of our police force. It is our first line of defence, at least on the home front.
Now Mr President, let me tell you a little bit of what little I know about the Gambia Police Force and what you should do for them. The Gambia Police Force is divided into two categories. The General Duty (GD), concerned with the day to day policing of our streets, who we find in police stations, who conduct investigations, effect arrests, appear in court for prosecution etc.… These however Mr President, are very poorly equipped, poorly paid and poorly motivated.
The police do not have enough vehicles or fuel for the few that they have. How come that an entire Police Force has not been provided the tools they need to do their work? It is even said that it is the money that they contribute when they return from peace keeping that they put together to do many of the things they do, like buy vehicles, fuel and other required needs. This is unacceptable. The government must ensure that this stops immediately.
The Police Intervention Unit which as indicated above is the one responsible for the heavy duty services is equally poorly paid, poorly trained, lacking equipment and what not. It is this lack of training that is often manifested in the way they seem to tackle riots and protesters. Because they lack the basic training needed for that, they revert to the only thing they know – force. This has resulted in the tarnishing of the reputation of the police in general. It has also eroded the trust that used to exist between the police and the general public such that the important community policing is dying down.
All these, Mr President, have taken their toll on the beleaguered police force. This needs to be halted as a matter of urgency and it has to be looked into properly. The corrosion of trust between the population and the police is such that people have less regard and respect for the police now. The confidence of the general public towards the police is at an all-time low. I happen to know some excellent police officers, intelligent, honest, tenacious, patriotic and very hard working. With the right support from government this force can be the best in the sub-region. It can restore the confidence of the public and thus enhance their ability to fight against crime in the country.
Mr President, the world is changing fast. So are the criminals of the day. In the past, the criminals used sticks and knives to attack people or commit their nefarious crimes. Thus the police armed only with batons could fight them off and control the streets. Now the criminals are using sophisticated weapons which have far-reaching range and consequences. Thus, in my opinion, the policemen and women should now be armed at least with pistols if not Ak47s.This will help them fight crime everywhere in the country.
Mr President, modernise the police force and give them more incentives, better pay, better service conditions, restore their pride and honour. I can assure you, Mr President, with all these in place, you will observe a steady transformation of the peace and stability of the country and thus, progress and development.
Have a good day Mr President.