Does The Gambia Really Need a Defence Minister?

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This correspondence occurs in response to a recent article by Madi Jobarteh impressing on the president to fill the aforementioned ministerial post as a matter of urgency. His was an insightful argument based on superbly constructed points rich in law. That said, my response is neither to disparage, nor a rebuttal per se, rather to construct a counter-narrative of institutional & portfolio arrangements in view of the country’s unique situation.

To back up his claims, Mr Jobarteh relied on section (71) of the constitution which concerns the appointment of Ministers. He rightfully argued that a President and a Minister cannot share the same position, hence those are ‘’mutually exclusive’’ cabinet posts. He also quoted sub-section (3) which authorized the President to appoint cabinet Ministers hence the President, nor his ministers should occupy more than one post at a time. He went on to draw attention to separate the vice-presidential portfolio from that of women’s Affairs – both vested in one as it stands.

Mr Jobarteh appeared quite hysterical in laying down his claims; but I suspect he is perfectly aware of further provisions within the statutory book drawing on secession. May I remind him that liberal democratic tradition and Gambian law dictates that in an event of unfortunate proportions, the president shall be succeeded by the vice president, or Speaker of parliament in that orderly. The Gambian people need to bear in mind that the constitution is entirely under review in an effort to iron out discrepancies and unjust laws arbitrary put. That calls for patience, since the final cut shall be subject to parliamentary debate and public plebiscite before adoption:

Still writing in the article, Mr Jobarteh paid particular attention to the vacant defence ministerial post. He seems convinced that the position must be filled, and that power removed away from the presidency. I, for one, see no urgency, or utility for The Gambia appointing a Minister of Defence. Folks, let’s be realistic, and to survey and prioritise needs in view of total transformation in motion. For starters, The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in the world, surrounded by Senegal on three sides. A peaceful, friendly and partnership growing stronger by the day. There is no need for military build-up or a hard-border line. As for in-coming threats from foreign fishing trawlers via the Atlantic Ocean, the Gambia need to rebuild & equip its navy in all aspects of strategic surveillance over Gambian waters.

For a new-Gambia, the emergent army should engage their Senegalese counterparts in collaborative training and cross-border security partnerships for a safe and secure region. In an unprecedented attempt at history – I call for the signing of a Senegambia Security & defence Pact. This shall encompass total protection of both countries and to come to each-others defence should a mutiny or foreign force invade. Such a pact is a deterrent to coup de’etat, drawing inspiration on the NATO alliance, albeit entirely drawn on separate terms based on international law and values underpin by local history.

I have always maintained that The Gambia does not need a large military force. To hasten professionalisation of the Security apparatus, the country need to build separate police, navy and military training academies of success. Another idea being for the Interior and Defence portfolios to be amalgamated into one post – ‘Ministry of National Security & Planning’. However, institutional separation of the army and police must maintain, with the new emergent army refocused on modern military methods in peace-keeping and peace-building duties supporting AU and UN missions around the world.

Gibril Saine    Twitter: @gibbysaine

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