By Omar Bah
The Minister of Justice, Abubacar Tambadou has dispelled what he called misconceptions surrounding the ongoing security sector reform and the continued presence of Ecomig in the country.
Speaking at the launch of the National Security Policy (NSP), Minister Tambadou said: “This exercise is not all about reducing the size or number of our security forces or personnel.
This is perhaps at the bottom of our priority list and when it occurs we want to assure everyone that it will be done with the requisite care, fairness, sensitivity and professionalism and that no one will be targeted on accounts of their ethnicity, tribe, religion or region”.
The Minister said the focus is not on the size but the quality and the armed forces the country want would be modeled in the best of military traditions with ranks that are reflective of a professional army and proportionate to the size that we need as a country.
“So we must keep this reform process right and very quickly as well because if we do not succeed in our SSR we risk undermining everything else that we have built and are still building in the past two years,” he said.
He said the SSR is perhaps the most important of all reforms processes in the country and they must as a government devote their resources both material and human necessary to achieve their objective.
Minister Tambadou said the continued presence of Ecomig demonstrates Ecowas commitment to peace and security in The Gambia.
“The Ecomig forces are here for us at our invitation as our guest and we should treat them as such at all times.
But again the reality is that they will have to leave us someday soon, hence the urgency of taking maximum advantage of their presence in the country to carry out the much needed reforms in our security sector.
We will forever be grateful to them for their individual and collective sacrifices,” he stated.
The Justice Minister continued: “Too many things, sometimes good sometimes bad, have occurred in our country over the past two decades and the Gambia Armed Forces for one reason or another has found itself at the centre of those events but it must be clear that the Gambia Armed Forces is our armed forces, they are the people’s armed forces and they are not enemies of the people”.
Tambedou said an absolute majority of the members of our armed forces are hardworking, honest and dedicated professional men and women who on a daily basis put their lives at risk so that the rest of us and our families can live in a peaceful and secure environment.
“It is because of them that we can go to sleep at night with our families not having to worry about our safety or the safety of our love ones and we must show gratitude to them; they deserve our respect,” he added.
He continued: “Moreover and not withstanding what one may think about the desirable or justifications, our armed forces have over the past two decades made the most attempts at trying to remove former President Yahya Jammeh from power with many of them dying as a result while others were jailed or went to exile. At face value it illustrates their collective disapproval of former President Jammeh’s methods”.
The Minister said the Gambia Armed Forces must be willing to do what is necessary to shed its past image as an instrument of oppression because “respect after all is earned and not demanded.
So you the men and women in uniform must regard yourselves as the guardians of our new found democracy and freedom and this responsibility and expectations have only increased in the new Gambia.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past and remove all vestiges of factionalism, regionalism or other forms of patronage. This is a Gambia for all and not just for a few,” he stressed.
The launching of the NSP, Minister Tambadou went on, provides the country with an opportunity to reflect on the past and for tracing out lessons for the future.
Also speaking at the occasion, President Adama Barrow directed the authorities responsible for implementing the National Security Policy to craft without delay a strategy to implement the NSP with immediate effect.
He said NSP will put the country towards securing the territory, the people, welfare and everything that belongs to Gambians.
“It will result in a security and justice system that is more responsive to The Gambia’s needs.
This is what the attainment of the national security vision is about; establishing a safe and secure environment for the people of The Gambia.”
According to President Barrow, the NSP sets out the directions the government will take to safeguard the Gambian people and natural resources.
“The policy sufficiently provides a robust, coherent and strategic approach to respond collectively to national security threats through swift decision-making processes, clear lines of accountability and responsibility, prompt execution of action and commitment to building the nation’s resilience to crime.”
The Gambian leader said his Government is mindful of the current reality regarding the safety and security in society and its responsibility to secure the country.
Mai Ahmad Fatty, a presidential adviser said The Gambia must aspire to be the most powerful force for peace, security and universal values of freedoms and democracy through regional integration.
He told the gathering that African integration comes with some security challenges such as extreme nationalism, terrorism, crime, environmental damage and the complex flow of trade and investments that know no borders.
“The new National Security Policy in summary is anchored on three co-objectives; to protect our democracy and by extension promote democracy in Africa, enhance our security and bolster Gambia’s economic prosperity,” he added.
The President’s National Security Adviser, Momodou Badjie said the national security policy which has undergone a vigorous scrutiny detailed the current and future risks, threats and opportunities and challenges the country faces and identified basic areas of national security including the instruments of national power.
He said the drafting of the national security strategic is currently underway to implement to the smooth implementation of the NSP.
Seraphine Wakana, UN resident coordinator in The Gambia said as development partners they are committed to continue giving Gambia the necessary support to attain its peace agenda.
“The security sector reform process including a comprehensive implementation of the national security policy is an integral component of this peace agenda. You will agree with me that a lot of work and coordination will be needed to achieve the desired results of the policy,” she added.