The Gambia: In The Name of Defense We’re Impoverished and Abused/Rights Violated
Numbers don’t lie!
|Defense/Deficit/Debt Serving Appropriation 2008-17 (Dalasis in billion)|
|% Debt Serving||22||17||16|
The defense spending figures for years 2017, 2016, 2011 and 2010 are not available. The proportion (%) of defense to total expenditure not available for the same years and the defense spending figures for 2012 are definitely erroneous. Taking the remaining 5 years data (11+11+20+27+21)/5 years = 18%. Gambia spent on average 18% of her total expenditure on defense. This is insanity for a poor/sick nation like ours.
Debt servicing is reported only for 2008, 2009 and 2016 of the last 10 years. In 2016 interest payment to service our debt is D3.72b that represents 22% of our total expenditure. I couldn’t find the figures our Total National Debt that is estimated at about 60-70% of our GDP. We will never on earth will be able to pay that back. Until then though interest servicing will crush us to hell. At some point we can hope for some Debt Relieve Program and/or creditors tie Write-Off to some structural reforms. That is ‘moral hazard’! The debtor knowing in the long run she won’t be oblige to pay back what she owed. As a practical matter that encourages bad African governments to mismanage and turn around to contract new debt that will probably never be paid.
These are bad numbers. Yet our government eats up 75bututs of every dalasi we produce (taxes and business financed with our taxes). We spent about 20% on armed forces that we truly done need. Those 2 costs centers only accounts for 95% of what we produce. Only 10% of our own worth is left. This will be about D800m of 2017 taxes and non-taxes revenue.
Our GDP is projected at D3.6b (US $0.8b). Our national debt is estimated at about 60-70% (D2.16b – D2.52b). Everyone involve (past & present) with these numbers knows we are not on a sustainable path.
The Armed Act was passed in 1984 to create Gambia National Armed Forces on the ashes of the failed Senegambia Confederation. The stated functions per 1997 Constitution are:
- The principal functions of the Armed Forces are:
- To preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of The Gambia
- To aid civil authorities, at their request, in emergencies and in case of natural disasters; and
- To engage, at the request of the civil authorities, in productive activities, such as agriculture, engineering, health and education for the development of The Gambia
- It shall be the aim of the Government and the Armed Forces to maintain harmony and to foster understanding between the Armed Forces and the civilian population, and to that end
the National Youth Service shall be organized with co-operation and assistance of the Armed Forces;
The Armed Forces shall establish training programs for their members at all levels to equip them with skills and trades, and a program of secondment to civilian occupations, so as to enable members of the Forces to return, after their service, to a full and productive civilian life; and there shall be established an army reserve.
It shall be the duty of the members of the Gambia Armed Forces to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of other persons
In addition, Jawara created NSS, Gendarmerie and PIU along side mainstay Police Forces of The Gambia. This was the largest singular expansion of government since February 18, 1965. The only other such expansion of government payroll was when ActionAid turn in their schools/teachers to the Ministry of Education in the 80s.
Jawara unjustifiably bill the Gambian taxpayers underserved security apparatus that didn’t afford average Gambian an added protection yet burden us with prohibitive costs. Besides impoverishment our rights continued to be systematically violated by these institutions either directly sanctioned by government and/or they look the other way.
Jawara wasn’t served; Gambians not protected and Yahya produced just 10 years (1994) after the Armed Act passed. We know what happened since. Hundreds and/or 1000s killed, unaccounted or badly harmed. Our cultures, traditions and moral values/virtues changes for the worst. With the current opportunity unless we are act appropriately Yahya 2.0 is only a matter of when and not if.
The fundamental questions are:
- Do we need an army?
- Can we afford it?
- On our list of needs/wants do we have higher priorities than army?
Here are main rationales of proponents of Gambia Armed Forces and Elaborate Security Apparatus:
- To Preserve Our sovereignty and Territorial Integrity: These are indisputable goals except we do not need to have a standing for army for our sovereignty and territories. Our geography and intertwined cultures/traditions with the Republic of Senegal has sealed us from external harm. Our government’s primary Foreign Policy agenda should be peace and economics prosperity with Senegal to better lives in both nations. A minimal fraction of monies spent on buying guns, ammunitions, uniforms, shoes, food, housing, offices, etc. will be needed to maintain good relations with Senegal. In additions to savings of money we will eliminate all chances of those guns/ammunitions been use to kill us and/or abuse our rights.
- To Serve As A Deterrent Of Kukoi-Like Attempted Coup: This is a flat argument. We don’t want coup(s) in Gambia! Period! Avoiding coup(s) by fully arming and training few while the rest are unarmed increases the likelihood of coup(s). Consequently that’s what exactly happened. We had one Kukoi in 52 years. In the 33 years (existence of Gambia National Armed Forces) we had over a 12-coups/attempted coups all from 1994 to date. By laws of probability/statistics our chances of no or fewer coups are better without a standing army. Further more civilians have a better chance confronting untrained armed person(s) than professionally trained armed soldiers
- We Need Soldiers Because Police Are Not Armed: This is very troubling view from person(s) of a free democratic society. It means they are okay with use of force (army) on citizens rather than follow due processes of law. Our army (reference the constitutional functions transcribed above) has no ordinary law enforcement role. Law enforcement is not about having guns to force citizens into subjugation. It’s about applying laws – the due processes and presumption on innocence until proven guilty at a court of law. We asking for the use of Armed Forces in law enforcement is a serious lack of capacities on the issue. Notice that for emergencies and natural disasters army could be use provided the appropriate triggers are met. My hope is Act(s) of National Assembly will detail those triggers out rather than leaving it to the egos of Commander in Chief. Lastly if/when law enforcement in our nation requires use of firearms, there is nothing stopping our government to appropriately equip The Police Forces.
- Army Provide Employment To Many: This is VERY TRUE. Sadly the government of Gambia’s role is not to expand public payroll. Instead the primary roles are protection and judiciously use our taxes on our needs/wants. Employing me or you and/or any other person(s) is merely incidental in government transaction. We can’t afford to keep a standing Armed Forces for employing young men and women. Reallocation of the resources thrown into the Army into productive sectors will create more employment for our citizens and generate more taxes that could be reinvested.
- Most In The Army Are Good Citizens; Don’t Stigmatize The Whole: Our argument is not about individual citizens serving in the army. Our argument is why spend money on something we don’t need. We’ve made similar arguments against Ministry of Information and Communication in 21st century Gambia. The army costs too much and we truly don’t need it to preserve our sovereignty and protect our territories. The taxes of Gambian should pay for jobs that advance our common cause. We don’t employ people because they are good people who deserved to have a job.
To nurture our small gain thus far:
- Dissolve The Gambia National Armed Forces and all the special security apparatus such as Gendarmerie, SIS, PIU, etc.
- ii) Build a well sized, trained and equipped Police Force
- Cease installations and operations of all Police/Security Check Points around town. Provide adequate vehicular fleet for police to move around with citizens to execute their law enforcement roles. Probably no new vehicle purchase will be needed if we ground all those vehicles used for none public purposes
- Train all members of Police Force Laws, Regulations, Ordinances and as well the Due processes of Law in their interface with the public anchored on presumption of innocence until proven guilty at a court of law. Violations of these fundamental principles should be harshly punished including termination of service and imprisonment
- Decentralize The Current National Police Force into Regional Police Forces with Regional Commands, Regional Jurisdictions with operational cooperation. This would require An Act of National Assembly. Effectiveness highly depends on decentralizing governance (power, authority, resources, etc.) to Regional Governments
- Called on UN to help in discarding our military hardware. Turn the military installations into needed facilities such as Schools of UTG, Prisons, agricultural training/research centers, etc.
God Bless The Gambia. To The Gambia Ever True