Commentary: The worsening security situation
The kidnapping of famous political activist, Kexx Sanneh comes hot on the heels of a plethora of grave security incidents that have rocked the Gambia in recent times, amid mounting fears among the populace that the situation is spinning out of control so much that certain sections of the citizenry are now nostalgic about the former president despite the gross human rights violations he has been accused of committing during his iron-fist rule. The general public is increasingly unnerved about their lives and properties.
Though I am not a security expert, nor do I claim to be one, I want to understand the underlying factors behind the recent surge in crime and criminality in a country that has long been touted as a Smiling Coast of Africa.
Firstly, I want to believe that the most salient factor is lack of leadership or invisible leadership. Since the Sanyang violent protests, no top official has bothered to address the nation to put them into the picture or at least reassure them and tell them what the government plans to do to address the situation and prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future. Yes, the police are carrying out their investigations, but that does not prevent the president or interior minister to ADDRESS the nation as part of crisis management. Besides, no successor has been named since the demise of the former IGP Alhagi Mamour Jobe, leaving behind a massive void in terms of command and responsibility.
Secondly, the security services, mainly the police, are ill-equipped; hence they are handicapped when it comes to fighting crime and criminals. The police complain about the lack or shortage of vehicles, fuel, telecommunication gadgets, among other essential tools necessary to perform their duties optimally. This sharply contrasts with the bureaucrats who are seen around in luxurious and expensive vehicles. The police are grossly underpaid compared to the responsibilities on their shoulders and the general public’s expectations; hence, some officers are involved in corrupt practices to make ends meet.
Thirdly, the abject poverty, hardship, unemployment and hopelessness that COVID-19 has compounded might be driving some youth to crime. (Mind you, criminality is unjustifiable under no circumstances). However, this is an undeniable reality. Commodity prices have shot through the roof and are likely to skyrocket as Ramadan is fast approaching.
Fourthly, drug and substance abuse is reportedly on the rise among the youth, which pushes some of our young men into crime to buy drugs. This requires urgent measures on the part of the government and society in general to raise awareness among the youth about the risks association with substance abuse.
Fifthly and most importantly, in my point of view, the abysmal failure of security sector reform program, which was at the heart of the government’s reformative agenda, is a significant contributor to the state of insecurity in the country. There have not been any visible or tangible reforms in the security domain, prompting many to wonder about the viability of SSR as a whole.
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