This is the speech of the Gambia’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairperson Emmanuel Daniel Joof delivered on Saturday 6th August 2022 on the occasion of an interface stakeholder dialogue on Security Sector Reform (SSR). Below is the speech.
By NHRC Chairperson Emmanuel Daniel Joof
I take this opportunity to thank the Solo Sandeng Foundation for holding this interactive dialogue between state actors, in the security sector reform process and the citizenry, with a view to enhancing public trust in
our various security personnel and for local ownership of the ongoing SSR process.
NHRC as the institution mandated to promote and protect human rights for everyone living within the jurisdiction of the country and bestowed with the mandate to advice the government on all issues involving human rights and fundamental freedoms is happy to host the event.
I would again like to mention and hope that the recent judgement and conviction of the NIA 9 Case by the High Court of The Gambia will finally bring closure to the family, relatives, and friends of the late Solo
Sandeng. His legacy in the history of the country lives forever.
The objective of this meeting is to continue and to sustain the conversation between stakeholder institutions, victims of police brutality, Political Parties, and other concerned bodies to assess various
factors including gaps, progress areas and public support for the reform process.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that I will be stating the obvious if I say that an effective and efficient SSR is necessary if The Gambia is going to have a meaningful transition to a democratic country where rule of law
and observance of due process takes precedence. The revelations during the TRRC sittings have given us detailed information, facts and evidence of the involvement of our security forces in systemic human rights abuses during the 22 years of the Jammeh Era. Although there has been some improvement in the behaviour and way security personnel relate to the civilian population from 2017 to date, there are incidences of reported police heavy-handedness and brutality that is a cause for concern reminiscent that we might be sliding back to the Jammeh era.
Since 2017, The Gambia’s government has been implementing extensive security sector reform (SSR) processes as part of national reconstruction efforts as the country tries to recover from the consequences of Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule.
The ongoing SSR is targeting at reforming the country’s eight security institutions. Namely the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), National Intelligence Agency, Gambia Police Force (GPF), Drug Law Enforcement
Agency Gambia (DLEAG), Gambia Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS), Gambia Prison Service (GPS), Gambia Revenue Authority (Customs and Excise) and Gambia Immigration Department.
Mr Mohamed Ibn Chambas the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) of the United Nations and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) during the
official Launch of the Security Sector Reform process in Banjul on 12 September 2017 stated, and I quote –
By embarking on a comprehensive reform of its security sector:
“The Government of The Gambia has made the choice of strengthening justice and security institutions to render them accessible and responsive to the needs and rights of all women, men, girls and boys in The Gambia. Reforming the security sector is part of the Government’s wider reform agenda to further transform the country and uphold the highest standards of democratic governance.
“Security Sector Reform is eminently a political process, which requires strong and proactive engagement of the highest state authorities. It requires strong leadership, vision and guidance for a process, which
ought to be inclusive, participatory and holistic, to better address the justice and security needs of all Gambians.
The role of women, youth, and civil society organisations in peacebuilding cannot be overemphasized as overarching and cross-cutting parameters for inclusive societies. Any Security Sector Reform, which does not factor in these aspects will only be seen as partial and discriminatory and will undermine efforts at promoting good governance and the rule of law.”
Many are concerned about the snail’s pace at which the security sector reform is being carried out and I believe that this dialogue will help us understand better where we are in the SSRC process, the challenges, and the way forward. To many, they have just heard about the SSR but cannot tell you what has been done and or achieved and the way forward.
I hope this dialogue will shed light on some of these issues and foster a better understanding for all the stakeholders.
I thank you all.