By Tabora Bojang
Speaking to The Standard on the sidelines of a two- day validation of The Gambia first-ever civilian-led draft national defense policy by the Ministry of Defence, Minister Omar Faye has said there cannot be any meaningful security reforms in the absence of policies.
The policy is designed to guide the MoD to effectively execute its management and oversight functions over the Gambia Armed Forces. The policy also defines the symbiotic relations and operations within the defence sector of the Gambia.
“Look, without policies you cannot do anything, maybe the mistakes we had in the past were because we did not have these existing policies. We want to learn from those mistakes,” Faye, who was appointed the country’s first defence minister in 2019 stated.
“We cannot just jump the gun,” he continued, “we have to have the polices and the frameworks in place that will determine downsizing and also determine what kind of armed forces we need. They have been jumping the gun but we are well on the way and we are going to get there by the grace of God.”
Asked how far has the overall security sector reform gone, the Minister responded: “It is something you cannot just say this is the benchmark. Reforms are continuous; people just have to realise that. We have achieved all these strategies which have not existed since the time of Sir Dawda [first president of The Gambia]. So we have achieved a lot as part of our policies, frameworks and reforms with the armed forces, civilian oversight, the minister of defence being an oversight over the armed forces with the committee of defence and security from the National Assembly.”
He said the outcomes of these policies and strategies will determine how the world perceives the Gambian security in terms of rule of law, respect for basic human rights and all other important things that happen in any civilised country.
“The Gambia is moving. We are achieving. Our policies are in place. After the assessment in 2017 we had our first national security policy and a national security strategy. Then we moved to the security sector reform strategy, and here we are now getting the defence policy and will be moving on to the strategy and my advice is for everybody to embrace peace, try and support the process because these are your sons and daughters and the frameworks,” Minister Faye urged.
According to the minister, the Gambia’s national defence policy details the type of military needed to address the threats to the territorial integrity of The Gambia.
“It offers broad recommendations on appropriate force structures and will help ensure that the valiant armed forces of the Gambia are relevant, fit for purpose and appropriately resourced, for the longer-term future.”
The Chief of Defence Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, Yakuba Drammeh described the policy as a “milestone achievement” for the country’s security sector.
According to CDS Drammeh, the defence policy of any nation is an integral part of its foreign policy, which entails its territorial defence strategy against external aggression.
“Presently the West African sub-region is experiencing fundamental security issues and challenges such as terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping, human trafficking and drug trafficking just to name a few. Without doubt, a state that lacks basic capabilities such as political, economic, industrial and technological skills to establish strong national defence and security structures is undoubtedly exposing itself to a serious security risk,” he said.