The Chronicle Gambia

Gambians Feel Less Safe But Want ECOMIG Out, Survey

The latest Afrobarometer survey on The Gambia has revealed that a growing number of Gambians feel unsafe walking in their neighborhoods and fear crime in their homes. The results of this survey come in the context of citizens’ sense of personal safety decreasing alongside their approval of the government’s efforts to reduce crime, the latest Afrobarometer survey indicates.

Recently, the Gambia Police Force has launched a high-visibility patrol dubbed Operation Zero Crime in response to Gambian’s perceptions of an upsurge in crime in the country.

In a recent address to the nation, President Adama Barrow acknowledged increasing crime. He assured citizens that he would boost the capacity of the Gambia Police Force to respond effectively.

Between 30th January and 23 February 2021, the Center for Policy, Research, and Strategic Studies (CePrass) interviewed 1,200 adult Gambians for the Afrobarometer. The study considers that a sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

Out of the Afrobarometer survey, almost half (47%) of Gambians say they felt unsafe walking in their neighborhood at least once during the past year. It is an 11-percentage-point increase compared to 2018 (36%) (Figure 1).

Respondents were asked: Over the past year, how often, if ever, have you or anyone in your family: Felt unsafe walking in your neighborhood? Feared crime in your home? (% who say “just once or twice,” “several times,” “many times,” or “always”)

The proportion of citizens who feared crime in their homes at least once during the previous year also rose by 11 percentage points, to more than one-third (36%).

Fewer than four in 10 Gambians (37%) say the government is doing a good job of reducing crime, a 17-percentage-point drop compared to 2018 (54%). Public approval of the government’s performance on preventing or resolving violent conflict declined by 22 points, to 41%.

The Afrobarometer study has also brought to light the sharp contradiction between the feeling of insecurity developed by the majority of Gambians and their strong trust in the current security apparatus, despite reports of corruption and the relatively inefficient response to policing problems in communities. Even so, the Gambia Armed Forces and Police Force remain among the country’s most trusted institutions.

Among Gambians who sought assistance from the police during the previous year, fewer than half (44%) say they found it “easy” or “very easy” to get the needed assistance. The proportion who say they had to pay a bribe to obtain police assistance almost doubled compared to 2018, from 20% to 36%.

Even so, popular trust in the country’s security forces remains relatively strong, well ahead of trust in elected leaders. Six in 10 Gambians (59%) say they trust the Gambia Police Force “somewhat” or “a lot,” while two-thirds (67%) say the same about the Gambia Armed Forces.

One would imagine that with the growing perception of insecurity and rising crime coupled with the inefficient security sector reform, Gambians would wish a longer stay to the ECOWAS stabilizing forces of the ECOMIG. But it is not the case.

Respondents were asked: Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: The ECOWAS Military Intervention in the Gambia (ECOMIG) has served its purpose. It is time they leave for the Gambian Armed Forces and Police to take charge of security matters of the country.

An overwhelming majority of Gambians want the ECOWAS Military Intervention in the Gambia (ECOMIG) to leave to allow Gambia’s military and police to take charge of the country’s security needs.

ECOMIG, which has been charged with security in the country since the political impasse of 2017, continues to operate under a mandate ending in December 2021. There are also discussions of transforming the mission into a policing force.

Meanwhile, The Gambia is implementing a security sector reform program to move away from politicized security institutions common under the previous regime.

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, nonpartisan survey research network that provides reliable data on Africans’ experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life. The network completed seven rounds of surveys in up to 38 countries between 1999 and 2018.


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