By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
On Wednesday 11th March 2020, members of the Media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) converged at the National Nutrition (NaNa) Conference Center to review a position paper on Security Institutions. According to Mr Pansaw Nyassi, one of the organiser’s and National Coordinator for the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance (DCAF), “this position paper is a joint effort of the CSO Community, Media, some other stakeholders, Security Personnel, the ONS and some members of the International Advisory Group in The Gambia”.
WANEP’s Mrs Salama Njie: Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
During the opening for the event, Mrs Salama Njie from West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) highlighted that the delegates “are here to see how best we can brainstorm once again to be conversant with the paper and also to increase our advocacy level [relating to security issues]”.
“According to the grapevine the second draft is almost out and we are not very sure whether all the things that we highlighted here have been incorporated and as the saying goes speak now or forever remain silent.” Nonetheless, she is confident that “in our [Gambia’s] case that will not happen because we still have our elected representative who we can refer to as far as lobbying and advocacy is concerned”. In conclusion, she thanked DCAF and their supporters for financing the process.
DCAF’s Pansaw Nyassi: CSOs and the Media should play Oversight Role of Security
According to Mr Nyassi “The key reasons for the meeting are to hand-deliver the recommendations to the media and for CSOs to have a copy and to highlight some of the key suggestions made to the CRC. It is understood that there will not be a second chance to submit any recommendations however some of the partners in the government have an opportunity to engage the CRC, particularly those in the Government.”
He highlighted that the “meeting offers the opportunity to know what’s in the position paper”. In his view, this will enable all media and CSOs present to engage those in Government and the Public on the recommendations being put forward.
Finally, Mr Nyassi impressed on the Media and “CSOs to play an oversight role over the Security Sector Institutions. In the past regime that was not the case but now in the New Gambia this is the norm. Civilian oversight of the Security Institutions. The position paper submitted focuses on the oversight of Security Sector Institutions.”
Delegates raise concerns on Security Situation
One of the delegates at the workshop, Muhammed S. Bah, a journalist with Foroyaa Newspaper highlighted that “the role of the Security in protecting the territorial integrity of the Gambia is being compromised”. Mr Bah raised concerns over news reports of Senegalese Security Officials chasing an individual into the Gambia and firing weapons on civilians, injuring and arresting at least one male in the process. He called on the authorities to address issues emanating from Senegal without passing blame and undue delay.
Standard Newspaper’s Omar Bah lamented the large number of Security checkpoints which he says “makes the country feel like a militarized state”. He recalled travelling from Basses to Brikama during which he counted over 30 checkpoints. From what he observed some checkpoints were less than 100m apart. In contrast, he highlighted that during in Senegal vehicles are required to park on the side of the road when being engaged by Security Officials. This he opined will guarantee the smooth operation of traffic which impedes economic activity.
Mandinka Proverb – “People in the same boat have the same goal. Collectively we will get it fixed.”
During the process of developing the position paper submitted to the Constitutional Review Commission, some salient points were raised which could be addressed in the Constitution submitted to the President by the end of March 2020. Here are some noteworthy observations made by various stakeholders throughout the process;
- There is a need for the Constitution to include Security within the mandate of the National Assembly. There is further need for National Assembly oversight of the Security to be addressed within the various acts of the Security Institutions. Provision (132 (3)) in the CRC Draft Constitution.
- The position of the National Security Advisor should not be recognised as the National Security Advisor to The President instead it should be recognised as the National Security
- Advisor and the Secretary to the Office of National Security. This is in line with the aim of Security Sector Reform which is to move from State Security and towards Human Security. Provision (1) (h)) in the CRC Draft Constitution.
- Currently, the appointment and dismissal of the Inspector general of Police are subject to National Assembly approval. This will avoid a situation where the IGP acts at the pleasure of the President against the public interest. Can this progressive step be incorporated in the appointment and dismissal of other key Security Officials? Provision (289) in the CRC Draft Constitution.
- The need for some of the key Security Institutions to be given some general principles which will promote human security, accountability and transparency required in a democratic nation. For example, the need for the Army to be recognized as a Security Institution tasked with the role of defending the country from all external threats and the Police to be primarily in charge of internal security. There is also a need appropriate guidelines on when the Army can get involved in Public Unrest? When does the Army or the Police get involved in Immigration issues at the border? It was highlighted that revising the Acts of some of the Security Institutions and including clearly defined roles will address the issue of overlapping mandates of Security Institutions.