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Security sector institutions, their mandates, governance and oversight

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By Dr Henry DR Carrol

What is national security?
National security, is the common denominator or common intention of security sector institutions of an independent sovereign state, to collectively ensure that a certain state or country is fully secured for human, fauna and flora habitation, (both from within and outside its borders), so that sustainable national development can take place, for the benefit of both its citizens and other inhabitants of that state/country. National security is of paramount importance, without it there will be no national development. As a Canada-trained theologian, let me start this lecture, by quoting a very appropriate Biblical quotation, which relates to national security, and it goes thus: “Unless the Lord builds a house, the labourers labour in vain… Unless the Lord watches over the city gate, the watchman watches in vain.” I am sure, The Holy Qur’an, also has a similar theological quotation, pertaining to national security. This means that, God Almighty is the biggest and most powerful watchman, for any state or country. This notwithstanding, we must not rest on our laurels (be complacent) about our national security because God helps those who help themselves, as the famous adage goes. The late black American civic rights activist, Rev Dr Martin Luther King in his masterpiece I Have A Dream speech, quoted these powerful and inspirational words: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and beyond the deep unknown, standeth God within the shadows, keeping watch above his own.” These powerful poetic words were the figment of the fertile imagination of the late 19th century American Romantic poet, critic, editor and diplomat, James Russell Lowell.SECURITY pic 1Security pic 3

Key Gambian security sector institutions are: (1) The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF); (2) The Gambia Immigration Department; (3) State Intelligence Service (SIS), formerly National Intelligence Agency (NIA); (4) The Gambia Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS), (5) Drug Law Enforcement Agency, The Gambia, (6) The Gambia Prison Service (GPS); and (7) The Gambia Police Force (GPF).
Gambia Armed Forces: GAF is made up of the Army (National Guards), Navy and the Air Force, (at a nascent or embryonic stage). Under the command of His Excellency The President, Mr Adama Barrow, and in his official capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of The Gambia Armed Forces, the GAF is authorised by Section 187 (1) (A to C) of The Gambia’s 1997 Constitution, to execute the following official functions:
? “Preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of The Gambia”;
? “Aid the civil authorities, at their request, in emergencies and in cases of natural disasters”;
? “Engage at the request of civil authorities, in productive activities, such as agriculture, civil engineering, health and education, for the development of The Gambia.”

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The Army (Republican National Guards), Navy, and the Air Force, are led by commanders who are directly answerable to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), assisted by a deputy CDS. The CDS is responsible for the daily administration of the GAF. The president appoints the CDS, commanders and service chiefs, in keeping with provisions of the aforesaid Constitution. The present CDS is Lieutenant General Masanneh Kinteh, who is the CDS for the second time, after returning home from Cuba recently, where he served as The Gambia’s ambassador. The precursor of the GAF, was the Gambia Field Force, which is now defunct.


Gambia Immigration Department: GID was established by The Immigration Act (1965), (the year of Gambia’s independence from the UK), and its official functions are:
?Control, monitor and facilitate the movement of people into, within and out of The Gambia;
?Interpret and enforce The Aliens Registration Act (1977) and its amendments;
? Interpret and enforce The Nationality And Citizenship Act (1965) and its amendments;
?Enforce The Diplomatic Immunity And Privileges Act (1947) and The Official Secrets Act (1922).
? Interpret and enforce The Refugee Act (2008) and the policy on business establishment, among others.

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The GID is headed by the Director General (DG), and the present and able one is, my good friend and colleague, Mr Bubacarr Sanyang alias “Zil.” The DG, apart from being the supreme administrator and supervisor of the GID, he/she is also the main technical adviser to the Minister of the Interior (Honourable Ebrima Mballow), on immigration matters. The Deputy Director General (DDG) helps the DG in carrying out his/her official functions. Under The Immigration Act (1965), His Excellency President Adama Barrow, has the power to appoint and terminate the service of both the DG and the DDG. I am happy to report that from 1994 to 2007, I was a founder, senior immigration law lecturer at the Law Department of the Gambia Technical Training Institute.


State Intelligence Service, formerly National Intelligence Agency: The Gambia’s 1997 Constitution places the NIA (now SIS), under the official authority of His Excellency, President Adama Barrow. Under AFPRC Decree 95 (Decree 45), it is mandated to execute these official functions: “Secure and protect The Gambia and to safeguard the welfare and economic wellbeing of its citizens and foreigners living in the country, against all internal and external threats. It executes these functions mainly by collection, processing and dissemination of intelligence to the various consumers and stakeholders.” There was a proposed bill in the making, to transform the NIA to the SIS, with the intention of drastically reforming its functions, as well as its management and oversight. Perhaps the SIS needs to undergo additional reforms, in order to ensure that its official operations and functions, are fully compliant with sacrosanct and inviolable principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As a senior human rights lawyer, I fully support these noble and well overdue SIS reforms, which should be implemented as soon as possible, because, justice delayed, is justice denied, as the famous legal adage goes. The present Director General of the SIS is Mr Ousman Sowe.


The Gambia Fire and Rescue Services: GFRS was established by an Act Of Parliament (now National Assembly). This GFRS Act (1949), authorities GFRS to execute these official duties/functions:
?To save life,
?To prevent people’s property from being destroyed by fire
?To render humanitarian services and
?To help people in the protection of the environment.”
As a senior environmental lawyer and consultant and a founder senior environmental law lecturer of the Faculty of Law of The University Of The Gambia from 2007 to date, I am extremely interested and excited about the fourth aforesaid official duties/functions of the GFRS.

According to The GFRS Act (1949), which was enacted by the Legislative Council in colonial Gambia, the GFRS is the first emergency response department under the Ministry of the Interior. Vel Primus, Vel Cum Primus (Latin – either the first, or among the first). The GFRS department is headed by a Chief Fire Officer (CFO), who is the technical adviser to the Minister of the Interior on public safety and emergency matters. The present CFO, is Mr Rodger Bakurin, who is one of my LLB undergraduate Law students, at the UTG. One former well-known CFO, is Mr Rex King, who later became Inspector General of Police. The GFRS., definitely needs some urgent reforms, in order to promote its official efficiency.
To be continued…

Security sector institutions, their mandates, governance and oversight

Dr Henry DR Carrol (MRG), is the chairman of The Gambia Law Reform Commission and Solicitor General emeritus of The Gambia.

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