Security Sector Reform: A National necessity in The Gambia
In the wake of yet another brutal police crackeddown on peaceful demonstrations in Brikama - The Gambia, now is the moment to move quickly on the path of security sector reform.
The case for radical reform has been made after the dictatorship, the Truth Reconciliation, Reparation, Commission “TRRC” but president Barrow’s government refuses to effect the necessary reforms.
Since gaining Gambia's Independence, little has changed in the Gambian policing, the script of which was inherited from our then colonial master – the Great Britain. The agrarian colonial mind-sets of policing continues to bedevil the contemporary Gambian public.
The unprecedented seriousness of police brutality increased during the time of the dictatorship 1994 - 2016. The police force was weaponised in order to subdue the country to cringe, crouch and crawl for the then president - Yahya Jammeh.
When the coalition government headed by an unknown political novice - Adama Barrow came, there were promises and optimism of reforming the security sector, alas.
The president who vouched to spend three years as a transition president to clean politics and go back to doing his business, made a remarkable volte-face upon tasting the trappings of leadership.
Herewith, he shockingly reneged on reforming an unreliable and weaponised security sector that even the president himself is yet to trust for his personal security.
Consequently, the president is, after five years, relying on ECOWAS military intervention in the Gambia - ECOMIG – code – named Operation Restore Democracy, for his personal security and that of the country, to the chagrin of the Gambia security forces and many Gambians.
Policing in the Gambia, however, is at a crossroads. Warning signs if we do nothing are flashing red and we ignore them at our peril. We need security sector reform now.
But it is hard to see the government of President Barrow who politicises the police and with his obsession on entrenching himself to be a perpetual leader, he will be incapable of delivering his promise of security sector reform.
However, the stakes could hardly be higher. There is a crisis of confidence in politicising in the country which is corroding public trust.
The unhinged animalistic beating, teargassing and occasional discharge of firearms on peaceful demonstrations has done a reputational damage to the police.
The reasons for the behaviour of our police force against their own people are deep routed and complex - some cultural and others are systemic.
However, the use of the security forces as political tools that can be use against perceived enemies of the president is at the height of leadership failure.
Therefore, there is a need to grasp the urgency of change. We need to change the police culture of impunity, but also police recruitment and training, skills and organisational structure.
These, of course, should work in tandem with more spending and less political interference into the activities of the police by the executive.
It is our belief that majority of our security personnel who work tirelessly for the country are good men. What they need is to overhaul their training, plug out the rogue officers and equip them to be able to take on their challenges.
This may allow them improvement in their relationship between the public - their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.