In April 2000, 14 students were killed by Gambia Security personnel when they used live bullets to quell a protest. Apart from the deaths, several others have sustained life maiming injuries and until today, suffer the pain of such brutal and reckless response to a protest.
In January 2018, a riot in Busumbala raged on for several hours and police were unable to quell it because they lacked the capacity to do so.
Lives were not lost but injuries were sustained and properties were vandalised. The police inability to stop such a riot brought it serious criticism on competence and worth.
In June 2018, riots in Faraba Banta left 3 people dead when police overwhelmed by the rioting crowd use forced that resulted to the deaths.
The police used the only weapons they had with them- guns. Six police officers are currently on trial for these deaths.
These lost of lives and properties caused by the very institutions tasked with the responsibility of protecting them, does not only signify abject failure but has also caused embarrassment within the security institutions.
These incidents did not happen because the security personnel had the wish to cause death and damage, but because they lacked the requisite training and equipment to respond to incidents of riot.
If these were in place, the precious lives and properties lost, could have saved.
The soul of the The Gambia Police Force has for long been weighed with grief for its failure in these and other responsibilities not least because it desired so but because it simply lacked the capacity.
The police have always yearned to make a positive difference and sort efforts to carry out its duty of serving and protecting without casualty but was constrained in training and resources.
Therefore, if today, it has been able to put together plans to benefit from training on riot control under the French Police and has also purchased non-live threatening equipment for responding to riots, the least Gambians can do is to commend the efforts of Government and the police department.
I think what is most important now is to demand that the resources spent on the purchase of the water cannon and training of personnel must be used judiciously and professionally.
Gambians could demand that they do not expect excessive force that could lead to death in curbing riots.
On the other hand, Gambians must not forget that the police have a responsibility to enforce the law and even though it encourages protests, these must be carried out within the requirements of law.
Gambia belongs to us all and no person, politician, institution, organisation or tribe can claim superiority over it.
We are a country in the lower ranks of development and we must learn to concentrate our energy and effort in making a positive difference for our motherland.