By Omar Bah
Former secretary general and now strong supporter of the UDP, Momodou Sabally, has called on the Barrow administration to tell the Senegalese forces to leave the country.
The presence of the Ecomig forces in The Gambia especially the Senegalese soldiers has continued to generate condemnation among critics of the president who feel they have overstayed their welcome. The troops were deployed into the country in 2017 to put pressure on former president Yahya Jammeh to relinquish power.
“They should leave because they have clearly outlived their purpose and mandate. Their ubiquitous presence here as opposed to contingents from bigger armies like that of Nigeria, betrays their ulterior motives. Why is it that of all the contingents only Senegalese security have their own check points here?” he told The Standard yesterday.
Sabally said the continued presence of the Senegalese force has put ordinary innocent Gambian lives at risk. “For instance, during recent clashes with their antagonists in Casamance, dozens of artillery shells were fired into The Gambia which could have had disastrous consequences,” he said.
On why the Senegalese, Sabally added: “I am singling them out because of their ubiquitousness as mentioned earlier when we have bigger and more sophisticated armies represented here. What is their passion about? What kind of intelligence risk is their presence exposing us to? Senegalese forces will ultimately leave anyway; so the sooner they leave the better. Didn’t they desert us unceremoniously during the Jawara era?
“If Barrow can trust former president Jammeh’s close aides and associates like current Speaker Fabakary Tombong Jatta and Chief of Protocol Alhagie Ceesay, then why not the military who have remained loyal and mute all these past 5 years? In contrast to the military, Barrow’s trusted new Speaker of the House has just recently said on the very day that he was sworn in as Speaker that he still believes that President Barrow and his allies rigged the 2016 election. If Barrow can trust that man to head an institution that can impeach him overnight, then why should he not trust the army?” he chastised.
Sabally added that the lack of progress in security sector reform “cannot be an excuse to keep these Senegalese soldiers here”.
“This is now a proverbial chicken and egg problem. Is it not the case that security sector reform was deliberately stalled by the Government because they know they can always rely on Senegalese security? This government had five solid years and they wasted it without giving priority to security sector reform. Why should we believe that they will make it a priory any time soon when they are preparing to receive even more Senegalese security into the country?” he added.