By Omar Bah
A detailed research conducted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a research institute formed to enhance human security as a means to achieve sustainable peace and prosperity, has revealed that a crucial test for President Barrow’s second term will be to curb rising insecurity and crime.
The ISS is an African non-profit organisation with offices in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal. It covers transnational crimes, migration, maritime security and development, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, crime prevention and criminal justice, and the analysis of conflict and governance.
The research reveals that although the country has made significant achievements since 2017, discontent is growing about the government’s inability to maintain security in the country.
“Now that Barrow has been given a new five-year mandate, tackling rising insecurity and promoting economic growth should be prioritised,” it added.
In a recent nationwide survey by the Center for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies, 76% of respondents agreed that crime rates had either increased or increased rapidly in The Gambia since Barrow’s election in 2017.
“Armed robbery, especially of wealthy business owners, has reportedly become common and banditry and murder are rampant in urban and rural Gambia, seemingly with few criminal justice consequences. It is common for people to go missing, and burglary cases are rising,” research added.
The report further revealed that “discontent” is growing about the government’s inability to maintain security.
“The causes of rising insecurity are multifaceted. With youth unemployment at 12.4% in 2019 and 48% of Gambians living below the poverty line of US$1.90 per day, many young people have resorted to crime. The response from the Barrow government has been weak. In many cases, the culprits remain at large. When arrests are made, prosecutions don’t follow and often family members manage to secure the release of suspects,” the report added.
The institute recommended that going forward, the government needs to invest in “a more effective criminal justice system that can investigate crime and rapidly prosecute as part of broader ongoing security sector reforms”.
“Border security must be tighter to prevent cross-border crime, and social cohesion promoted among divided communities. The country also needs much more rapid economic growth. It should invest more in youth skills development through technical and vocational education programmes. It should also promote low- to mid-tech manufacturing industries through tax incentives and develop critical infrastructure that reduces the cost of doing business to spur private-sector growth,” the institute added.