On 24 May 2021, President Adama Barrow belatedly appeared on national television to address the security situation of the country.
The televised speech, which was long overdue given rising crimes, availed the president the opportunity to inspire public confidence and give tangible steps to fight crime.
Priority to the speech, the joint security forces deployed in the streets were relentless, patrolling, searching and checking vehicles on major roads with rape, murder, armed robbery on the rise as well as a proliferation of small weapons and drugs.
Something needed to be done. Something legal, effective and quick. And, rushed or not, the president turned to the military.
“As a final warning to the criminals and bandits in our midst, I hereby order the National Guard Unit of the Armed Forces to be on standby for deployment, when needed, to assume police duties, as provided for under the National Guard Unit Police Duties Regulations,” the president said in his statement.
A few weeks after this announcement, the Gambia Armed Forces revealed it has launched a campaign aimed at restoring public order and public safety amid sharp rise in criminality and criminal related activities in the country.
The campaign, dubbed Operation Restore Sanity, received mixed reactions from the public who, on one hand are appreciative of the swift action of the army and, on the other hand, raised concern over the deployment of soldiers into the streets.
The army said the operation would involve vigorous patrols during the day which would be intensified during the night. This evoked memories of the 2017 political impasse when regional troops roamed the streets after Yahya Jammeh’s ouster. We still haven’t forgotten.
Even though the army has promised this operation will strictly follow due process and the rule of law, we enjoin our men and women in uniform to, while restoring sanity into the streets and making them safe again, equally respect rights of those whose lives they are protecting.
We agree with the president. We agree with the army. We agree with the police. Gambians and those resident in The Gambia must feel safe for this country to develop. That’s the ultimate objective of law enforcement in the first place. And we urge everyone to partake in this drive while, at the same time, advise the security to do things strictly by the book.