Great opportunity to assess and learn from this experience
The entry into the country, “unnoticed”, of top former security operatives who accompanied former President Jammeh to Equatorial Guinea highlights serious breach at the airport and lends credence to the general security apprehension expressed by our fellow citizens. The audacity of these men to come back to the country one year after they left and deserted the army should not be underestimated or regarded as coincidence. It could be part of elaborate plot to destabilize our country. The motive and connection must thus be quickly explored and established.
Given insufficient security layers at our ports of entry, absolute reliance on flawed human intelligence gathering and low technological capabilities, it should not be surprising that high profile suspects could take advantage of these loopholes to get into the country. Suspects can use aliases and fake passports and since there is no biometric system at the port or facial recognition assets, they are likely to slip through the cracks.
We must also commend our security and law enforcement officials for acting very quickly in taking Generals Umpa Mendy and Ansumana Tamba into custody just hours after they landed in the Gambia. Co-operation of the civilian population in reporting situations to relevant authorities is a critical component in prevention, investigation and resolution of security matters and happy Gambians are paying close attention to their environment.
However, in serious security lapses like the one we witnessed, taking individual and collective responsibilities is highly crucial in drawing valuable lessons and preventing similar mishaps. At governmental level, massive investment is needed in the security sector. Democratic gains cannot be consolidated or sustained in the absence of security. Security sector reform must not be limited to only changing faces, retraining and or redeployment of officers; infrastructural overhaul, procurement and deployment of complimentary technological assets are equally central to the package. Our security and law enforcement agencies must be given tools and incentives to help ensure efficiency in their works.
As a concerned citizen, I expect this investigation to be exploratory, thorough, exhaustive and far reaching to account for all angles. Individual actions that might have led or contributed to this embarrassing security circumvention either in the form of dereliction of duties or collaboration with the suspects at every level must be established and those found culpable are held to account without prejudice.
Security of our country and safety of our fellow citizens including the protection of our democracy and ensuring justice must not be jeopardized. President Barrow and his coalition government should be put on notice that they will be political and legal consequences at the polls and in courts, respectively, if their actions and omissions in office run counter to these ideals.
Zakaria Kemo Konteh
Of looming threats
Dear President Barrow:
Recent return to the country, of two long-time Jammeh loyalists whose names and faces represented the dreadful terror unleashed on Gambian people at the behest of a soulless creature, without their immediate arrest and questioning, much less a flag being raised, exposes a major weakness in our national security architecture, which must rebuilt without delay and the faith of the citizens restored. What happened was an indictment on your leadership and goes further to lend credence to a swell of seething criticism of your government for its seemingly lack of cleared-eyes and apparent detachment from the pulse of the nation.
Citizens are concern about the state of security of the country. We are all worried. Last two months have seen some ugly disturbances to peace. And this latest security failure, following in on the heels of the total breakdown of political and social order in Mangkamang Kunda and Busumbala, raises serious questions about the perennial culture of complacency and incompetence within the national intelligence circle, military intel, CID, and even our immigration department. Who are the people manning sensitive ports of entry of the country? Why don’t we have the names and pictures of all those who accompanied Jammeh to Equatorial Guinea at every entry points of the country? In every police station, at every military barrack, in our criminal database… These Jammeh loyalists are intelligence assets and potential national security threats. Take note:
Yahya Jammen is still determined to reclaim all the ill-gotten wealth he stole from Gambians. Even if it means rendering the country ungovernable. It’s about economics of wealth and power. His presence is palpable. He is not physically in the country, but his long evil hands are visible everywhere by show of agency. Remember, one of his futile demands from Ecowas leaders, days before his banishment was the security of his assets in-country. Seeing hundreds of assets and bank accounts frozen, pending recommendations from the Janneh Commission, must be unsettling for him. This alone gives him cause for vengeance. He reminds me of Euron Greyjoy in the Game of Thrones – horrible for heinous acts and thirsty for power but also calculating and decisive. APRC party still salivate at the possible return of their Euron Greyjoy.
Ansumana Tamba and Umpa Mendy, like the rest of the members of Jammeh’s inner cabal, subverted the supreme laws of the land and defiled the most sacred process in our democracy – free and fair election – in 2016. These men were up in arms ready to execute Jammeh’s orders that would have washed our land with Gambian blood. Hundreds of thousands would have been stateless refugees in foreign lands by now. Women and children would have suffered most from the indignity of their treachery against the Republic. The old and the feeble and the sick would have been stranded and worse, left for slow painful death, either from starvation, or inglorious destitution. The Gambian atmosphere would have been occupied by stench of death. But all these gory imageries were averted in the last hour, thanks to the courage of Ecowas leaders and the movement of determined citizens who stood ready to wrestle their country from the blood-drenched claws of an unstable tyrant.
After all the hell and inhumanity we endured under Jammeh and the APRC party for 22 years, we are being forced to worry about the security of the country and personal safety. The ramifications of this colossal breach in security are far reaching. And the time for a major shakeup is now. You are the president and commander-in-chief. You have a sacred duty to make every Gambian – home or abroad – feel safe in and about the country. That must be your topmost priority. Demand answers from your interior minister and the security chiefs; demand their resignations if found wanting; demand more. The rank-and-files who implement national security policy and strategy must also be held to account. Besides, you have every tool in the Gambian Constitution to right the ship. You still have the chance to deliver for the Gambian people as eloquently obtained in your oath of office. Be smart with your presidential power, but more importantly, be effective in its use. Leave no doubt!