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Afrobarometer Survey: Majority of Gambians Trust GAF, Half Want ECOMIG to Leave

A survey by Afrobarometer has shown that majority of Gambians do trust the Gambia Armed Forces, while half of the population (survey respondents) think the sub-region forces ECOMIG should leave the country.

Afrobarometer, a pan-African, nonpartisan research network, conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in African countries. Its team in the Gambia, led by the Centre for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies (CepRass), interviewed 1,200 adult Gambians for this survey.

In the maiden survey in the Gambia, two-thirds of citizens say they trust the Gambia Armed Forces at least “somewhat,” including 48% who say they trust them “a lot.” About three in 10 say they trust the military “just a little” or do not trust them at all.

“Among key institutions and leaders in the country, the army ranks fourth in popular trust, after religious leaders (trusted “somewhat” or “a lot” by 85% of respondents), traditional leaders (71%), and the President (67%).”

“Popular trust in the Gambia Armed Forces is strongest in Central River-South (71%), Kanifing (67%), and West Coast (67%) and lowest in Upper River (55%). Women are less likely than men to express trust in the military (61% vs. 68%), as are respondents with secondary or postsecondary education (59%-62%) compared to their less-educated counterparts (68%-70%).”

According to the findings, citizens have mixed feelings about the performance of the armed forces. While six in 10 (62%) say the armed forces “often” or “always” keep the country safe from external and internal security threats, only half (51%) say they “often” or “always” act professionally and respect the rights of all citizens (Figure 3). Fewer than four in 10 (37%) say the armed forces get the resources they need to be effective.

Time for ECOMIG to leave?

According to the Afrobarometer survey, Gambians are divided as to whether it is time for ECOMIG to leave and for the Gambia Armed Forces and police to take charge of security matters. Half (50%) of all citizens “agree” or “strongly agree” that ECOMIG has served its purpose and should leave, while 44% “disagree” or “strongly disagree” and want ECOMIG’s stay extended.

“The disparity shows that while many Gambians may be regaining confidence in the armed forces and the police, there is still a significant proportion who are reluctant to leave security matters solely to them.”

ECOMIG officers ©Daily Guide

ECOMIG forces composed of troops from nieghbouring Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana. They were deployed in The Gambia in January 2017 to restore order, following the famous political impasse when then President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down after losing the December 2016 election.

Other key findings

▪ Among citizens who requested police assistance in the previous 12 months, fewer than half say that they found it easy to get the help they needed (44%) and that they received the needed assistance “right away” or “after a short time” (46%). One in five (20%) say they had to pay a bribe or do a favour to get the help they needed.

▪ About four in 10 Gambians say they were victims of theft from their house (40%) or felt unsafe walking in their neighbourhood (36%) during the previous year. One in four (25%) feared crime in their home, and one in 14 (7%) were physically attacked.

▪ In the past two years, about half or more of Gambians have feared or experienced violence among people in their neighbourhood (53%), during a public protest (49%), or at political events (56%).

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