One of the key refrains in President Barrow’s utterances when he took over the mantle of leadership of this country was that he did not have the knowledge or experience to run this country and that he was going to rely on his team (meaning the coalition members) to do the job; transforming weak institutions and overhauling the policy frameworks necessary for the smooth running of a modern republic.
Now that that ‘team’ has disintegrated, thanks to his own lust for power, it is incumbent upon us as citizens to share our knowledge and concerns regarding the state of affairs of this country. One such key concern is the apparent breakdown of security characterised by rampant burglaries, importation of drugs and guns in mass quantities, and armed robbery, creating an atmosphere of anarchy.
The forgoing reality of our current situation has created genuine fear and consternation regarding the future of this country. But it is also worrisome that this country that has been an oasis of peace and security in a volatile subregion, might render itself as a hub for distribution of narcotics and international terrorism aided by illicit financial transactions.
If we are not concerned about our own safety and welfare, at least we should be alarmed by the potential of our country to be used as a base for such dangerous organisations like al Qaeda in the Maghreb because all the elements necessary for such an explosive situation have now manifested themselves. Mass youth unemployment, the availability of hard drugs in huge quantities, coupled with mass deportation of disillusioned youths from Europe could be fertile ground for recruitment activities of terror groups. There is an alarming trend of voluntary resignation of soldiers from our national army mainly due to unfavourable conditions of service.
It is a fact that our men and women in uniform have been demoralised by a government that does not care about anything expect their own personal safety and financial security. The continued unjustifiable presence of ECOMIG forces is both a bane for the morale of our security officers and a potential weakening of our national security systems due to past nefarious activities of regional peace keeping forces in countries like Guinea and Liberia.
Our record in terms of importing foreign security forces has not been pretty. The Jammeh-led 1994 coup had a lot to do with the Nigerian command then heading our national army. And before that, the Senegalese forces that guarded former President Jawara left unannounced, creating an unexpected void in our national security setup.
I have heard genuine concerns being raised by some police and military officers regarding the seeming nonchalance of this government about their welfare. It is so bad that some police officers on duty at the President’s own home town of Mangkamang Kunda have decried their poor welfare, especially their feeding at the President’s village; a situation that could have been averted if President Barrow remained content with his palatial lodging at State House powered by a daily fish money of D150, 000 funded by the tax payers. But our President has decided to splurge millions of Dalasis on a grand mansion in his ancestral hamlet thereby inflicting further damage on the national treasury in terms of fuel, extra man-hours and wear and tear among other incidental expenditures.
With foreign troops afforded the privilege and honour of guarding the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces and our own troops wallowing in the squalor of poor salaries as well as inadequate logistics, how do you expect these men and women to perform at optimum levels.
It is quite evident that the State Security Services (SIS) is now a de facto political wing of the fledgling Barrow political incumbency called the National People’s Party (NPP). Intelligence gathering and analysis is a relentless tedious time-consuming activity. If the top echelon of this critical national security outfit is busy canvassing support for the President’s political party and arranging audiences for political allies with the President, how can they effectively carry out their official mandate?
There is also a growing trend of politicisation of our security services with The Gambia Police Force being in pole position in this race to the bottom. Past heads of the Police in this transition government have dipped too deep into the political cesspool with mass mobilisation of grassroots support for the fledgling Barrow political bus. A recent land fraud case set for prosecution had to be thwarted by the police command because the accused is a loud mouthpiece of President Barrow’s party. This does not augur well for independent professional execution of duties.
No wonder we still cannot get to the bottom of the multi- million dollar cocaine case purportedly still under investigation after 4 months; yet the police have the nerve to create a storm out of a tea cup with a fishy seizure of a few wraps of cannabis allegedly found in the official vehicle of the leading opposition party in the country.
President Barrow is desperate for re-election and self-perpetuation beyond the two term limit sanctioned by the popular draft constitution that he killed before reaching a referendum. He is trying to use our security services to reinforce his political game plan. His disregard of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is now evident. He has already reinstated at least one former top security chief who is regarded as a gross violator of human rights, during the former regime, with close ties to known drug dealers. The reinstatement of this man into the security services was clearly a move to gain political mileage from a particular ethnic group.
The cost of such a drunken adventure is too high. Perhaps Barrow does not know that his own weakening of our national security infrastructure has international ramifications that will catch up with him sooner rather than later.
Shall we then tell our President that there is a natural law that can never be broken: that thoughts and actions have consequences as promulgated in scripture (Both the Bible and Quran); and further elucidated by such luminaries like Sir Isaac Newton (Newton’s Third Law); and the American sage of Concorde, Ralph Waldo Emerson?
May Allah heal and protect the poor victims of our national insecurity nightmare. God bless The Gambia.
Author, Economist, former Minister of Presidential Affairs