By Captain Joseph P Jassey, (rtd)
West Atlantic Security Risk Assessment and Management Consultancy
At Independence on 18th February, 1965, the Republic of The Gambia (1970) acquired fundamental values which firmly entrenched it as a sovereign nation-state, consequent on which she had exclusive control over her geographical space, the autonomy to choose her friends and enemies from among other peoples and governments and conduct her relations with other societies without having to defer to any other authority or body, and regulate her own affairs within her geographical space as she sees and deems fit. This is good enough reason to commemorate The Gambia’s 57th Independence Anniversary on 18th February, 2022.
In addressing the complexes of development and national security throughout the years, we expected and are still expecting the political machinery to accord equal weight to both the integrity of our geographical space and the security of the citizenry resident therein. Proponents of the concepts of development and human security adamantly warn that progress in tackling the demands of development will enhance the chances of progress in tackling the concerns of human security, while failure in ensuring human security heightens the risk of failure in the attainment of development. The two concepts are intricately linked, as illustrated. By and large, the protagonists of development and human security have tended to fixate on these two intricately linked and mutually reinforcing theories to downplay the fact of The Gambia’s independence by citing the country’s failure in meeting the Human Development Index criteria that the UNDP advocates and promotes. Well, it’s been more than half a century since independence, so let the protagonists have their say. It’s their prerogative! And it’s mine too to admit, but I would rather hasten to add that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
In the matter of the security of the citizenry, the concerns of the people of Foni who were directly or indirectly impacted by the denouement of the violent clash between the Senegalese ‘Ecomig contingent’ and the MFDC secessionists on 24th January, 2022 have political, territorial and human security legitimacy. The Republic of Senegal is our immediate neighbour and inherent friend. Therefore, we are obligated to forge mutually beneficial bilateral relations with her without recourse to any other authority or body except where disputes relating to our indivisible geographical space and national security transcend the bilateral dispute resolution mechanisms agreed upon. Seemingly though, The Gambia’s inherent autonomy has somehow diminished on account of the presence of Ecomig whose mandate inter alia is apparently “to ensure the stability of the country during the democratic transition and to protect the country’s fragile democracy and primarily tasked with training and assisting the army and police in protecting the country from external threats and maintaining internal security” (DR. Ismaila Ceesay, PSCC POLICY PAPER, December 2020). Naturally, this should be borne in mind in the context of the clash between Ecomig and the MFDC which was precipitated by the existential conflict economy in the Gambia-South Senegal border dynamic facilitated by the cross-border timber trade. Posteriori, the timber trade has been legitimised by its incorporation into The Gambia’s formal economy. Therefore, bluntly put, Ecomig acted out of bounds when it took on the self-imposed role of law enforcement and consequent upon which, imperilled the lives of Gambian citizens. Herein lies the contention that the pursuit of development and human security must take place in tandem. Happy 57th Independence Anniversary! God bless the Republic of The Gambia