Images of armed men in civilian clothes went viral on the Internet following the aftermath of the July 24th riots in Serekunda.
This was during the protests of angry youth protesting the death of one Ousman Darboe, a market vendor, who was allegedly tortured by the Anti-Crime Unit of the Gambia Police Force.
Many observers decried the illegitimacy of un-uniformed men brandishing AK47s in the streets of the country as there is no insurgency. Therefore, many see it as irresponsible and unwarranted.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Gambia Police Force explained that these are CID officers, who do not usually put on uniforms, who had come to help quell the riots.
He said that the riots were getting out of hand and as such, they came to assist.
However, this explanation is not convincing as there are hundreds of other officers who could have been used instead of putting guns in the hands of men in civilian clothes.
The Gambia is not facng any insurgency and therefore there is no justification to put weapons in the hands of people who are not in uniform even if they are CID officers who should normally not take part in such operations.
This can cause a number of problems not only for civilians but also for the police themselves, and the government by extension. What would have happened, for instance, if these men opened fire on the protesters? Who would have been held accountable?
As a democratic country, we must begin to nurture the culture of respecting the rule of law and the protection of human rights. This has many facets one of which is ensuring that security agents follow the proper rules of engagement to the letter. They must not do anything that can jeopardize the safety of citizens or their agents in the execution of their duties.