GAMBIA’s Vice President, Isatou Touray has called for more international support for the country’s on-going political transition so as to consolidate the gains recorded after 22 years of dictatorship that ended in 2016.
“We are grateful to ECOWAS, EU and other development partners for their support, but there is need for continuity because Gambia is still fragile,” the Vice President told a visiting ECOWAS/EU delegation during a courtesy call in her office in Banjul the nation’s capital this week.
“We are just starting the building block for peace, stability and good governance,” she said, adding that the country was ready for collaborative engagement with development partners, especially in the areas of capacity building and strengthening of national institutions.
The Vice president stressed the need for effective coordination of support initiatives by donors and development partners and expressed the country’s gratitude to the EU and ECOWAS, particularly the ECOWAS Resident Representative Ambassador Vabah Gayflor, who led the delegation.
On behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, Ambassador Gayflor, who is also civilian head of the ECOWAS military Mission to the Gambia, ECOMIG, reiterated ECOWAS’ commitment to accompany the country through the path of restoration, stability, respect for human rights and democracy.
The EU-ECOWAS support to the Gambia covers areas such as security sector and electoral reforms, capacity building for various national institutions, training of trainers on peace building, mainstreaming and integrating of peace building in public policy, practices and delivery.
The support initiatives, which include the deployment of a Senior Defence and Security Adviser to the Gambian Government, Gen. Tijani Golau, are funded under the EU Support to ECOWAS Regional Peace, Security and Stability Mandate (ECOWAS-EU PSS) Project.
The Project Manager, Mr Vincent Okele explained that the Gambian action of the project seeks to strengthen the country’s security sector structures, improve democratic and governance processes, and support the establishment of national dialogue and reconciliation processes and structures.
He indicated that the action is open to providing further assistance in the area of coordination at the national level as well as with development partners providing wide-ranging support to the country.
Speaking in an interview in his Banjul office, Gen. Golau, who assumed office in January 2017 soon after the inauguration of President Adama Barrow following the departure of former President Yahya Jammeh, expressed optimism that the completion of the ongoing support initiatives would contribute to pulling the Gambia out of the decay of 22 years of dictatorship.
He explained that the reforms supported by the international community led by ECOWAS, with the EU, AU and the UN as other members of the International Advisory Group (IAG) Forum, followed layers of comprehensive national and international assessments of the situations on ground.
“For me, it is an honour and I thank ECOWAS and the EU for this opportunity to contribute towards the process of returning the Gambia to a peaceful, stable and prosperous nation,” the retired Nigerian Army General affirmed.
He however, identified as major challenges, “weak national ownership, political instability, national capacity deficiency, youth bulge and unemployment, and the poor management of the stock piles of arms, ammunitions and explosives.”
Others are the lack of modern equipment and infrastructure for the security agencies and the “stunning revelations” emanating from the sessions of the National Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
Like Gen. Golau, Gambia’s National Security Adviser, Col Momodou Badjie (rtd), also noted that some of the major challenges faced by the country included human capacity deficiency, dilapidated infrastructure and logistics gaps. The others, he said, are funding gaps, obsolete legal frameworks, political affiliation of some actors and poverty, adding that the Gambia would “say farewell to authoritarian tendencies” if these issues are addressed.
He is particularly optimistic about the potential results of the international support, noting that the full implementation of the intervention activities, especially in the security sector would help restore public trust and confidence, shattered during the period of dictatorship.
“It is baffling that the type of atrocities being revealed at the TRRC would happen in a small country such as the Gambia,” he lamented, stressing: “We must give the security sector forms a chance, because security is the biggest challenge during this political transition period.”
Col. Badjie, Gambia’s former Ambassador to Mauritania, Venezuela and Turkey, said “security must be people-centred and not State-centric, and there must be respect for human rights, the rule of law and in conformity with international standards and best practices.”