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Gambia’s March Towards Security Sector Reform Gains Momentum: NSA Calls on Citizens to Take Ownership

On Monday, officials of the Office of the National Security (ONS) and Geneva Center for Security Governance kick-started a weeklong nationwide sensitization to popularize the heavily criticized Security Sector Reform (SSR). The nationwide sensitization is aimed at raising awareness of the rural communities on the security sector reform.

The sensitization activity targets at least fifty participants across all regions of the country and has been described as a step in the right direction, marking a significant progress for the security sector reform since its launch on 12th September, 2017.

“When my administration was sworn-in in January, it was clear to us that we were taking on a security sector that has been deeply politicized and not responsive to the needs of the people,” said President Adama Barrow at the launch of the SSR.

Retired Colonel Momodou Badgie, a veteran service chief cum diplomat has been in charge of this project to transform The Gambia’s once decadent security forces to that of a professional, effective and accountable security sector that will be under democratic control, with full respect for human rights.

      Retired Colonel Momodou Badgie

Against this backdrop, the former army chief remains adamant that SSR is a process that takes years to accomplish, maintaining that his office is on track as far as the process is concerned and he called on Gambians to take ownership of the project for the good of all citizens in the quest to have an effective security sector.

“Security Sector Reform (SSR) is a process that usually lasts for years, it’s like a cycle that starts from assessment to design and programming, resource mobilization, implementation then monitoring and evaluation,” NSA explained.

According to him, people misconstrue the SSR process and the Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) process, arguing that these two processes are not the same. He said the TRRC is a transitional justice system with a timeline, while SSR is a process that could last for years depending on the processes involved.

The security adviser to the President said it will be very difficult to give a timeline on how long the process will last, arguing that it took countries like Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kosovo ages before they could complete their reform processes.

Pansaw Nyassi is the Interim Head of The Gambia based Geneva Center for Security Governance (DCAF), an organization that is the key partner of the Office of the National Security (ONS) and is at the forefront of the nationwide sensitization on the Security Sector Reform process.

     Pansaw Nyassi

Nyassi called on Gambians to embrace the SSR process and help in its popularization, noting that the nationwide sensitization is aimed at reaching out to The Gambian People in a bid to make the process more participatory and inclusive.

“A lot of Gambians have been complaining about the SSR process, most of them are with the view that the process is slow and has not produced any tangible results like the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) and the Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC). ONS/DCAF has partnered to embark on this nationwide sensitization in order to make the SSR process more visible and participatory,” DCAF Interim Head in Gambia disclosed.

He added: “We are calling on all Gambians to embrace this process, it is their own process. The participation of all Gambians will help in designing very effective security strategies for the country geared towards promoting peace and tranquility in the country.”

      Participants of the SRR

Many participants at various meetings across the country hailed the new approach undertaken by ONS/DCAF, observing that the sensitization activity will bridge the gaps of mistrust that existed between the civilians and the security forces, address lack of facilities and resources as well as address the mobility concerns of the security forces to dispense their job effectively.

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