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GUEST EDITORIAL – On Omar Sarjo And Security Sector Reform

It’s an old saying that “loose lips sink ships”. And our elders did warn that “if your mouth turns into a knife, it will cut off your feet”! To have a government representative sit before the nation and reveal the name of an individual whom they “dismissed” from the army because he’s supposedly not a citizen, is the height of dangerous ignorance. And it was the same representative foaming at the mouth about decorum, visibly angry and threatening a journalist that he’ll report him to the boss. As Momodou Ndow is wont to quip, Gambian bi ak palass! We may not have as many natural resources but we sure don’t lack in mini dictators! 

I was once asked what I would tell Barrow if he were to ask me what is the biggest national security threat facing The Gambia today. I responded that I’d tell Barrow to look in the mirror. Barrow will see himself in that mirror and he should be able to see Sankareh’s mouth right behind him with Omar Faye’s hypocrisy hovering over their heads. He, Barrow, and his team are the biggest national security threat our little nation faces today due to how they’re manifestly bungling the security landscape and its attendant threats. Ebrima’s mouth just provided the fuel that Jam Sarr and his ilk, hell-bent on fanning tribal war in The Gambia, needed to keep fanning the flames of civil strife. The Jam Sarrs and fellow clown Bala Jahumpa, along with Flat Top in England, are working overtime to convince the Jolas that it’s them against the rest of The Gambia, specifically the Mandinkas. Jam Sarr claims the security sector reform, or lack thereof, is aimed at purging Jolas out of the military! And guess what gave that idiocy the fuel it needs, Ebrima Sankareh’s mouth! The same mouth that had so much decorum that it could not resist calling fellow citizens “village idiots”, the same people on whose back he survives!

Omar Sarjo, dismissed from the Gambia’s military for allegedly being the son of Casamance MFDC rebel leader Salif Sadio which he denies.

What happened to Omar Sarjo needs to be looked into. It doesn’t pass the smell test and knowing how our government folks work, it’s difficult not to believe Mr Sarjo’s insistence that he’s a citizen of The Gambia. But even if Omar is not a citizen, his case definitely does not represent the success of the security sector reform and until the case is completely resolved, he shouldn’t be cited as an example of said success. But that’s what happens when you surround yourself with incompetent individuals who mistake chairing a press conference with being the authority, and ask them to go and talk to the nation. Ousman Badjie is the only one in that group with some knowledge on security sector reform. The rest of them were there to fill the seats! I can guarantee you Ousman would not have said what Sankareh said because he knows better. Sankareh unfortunately for him and our poor Gambia, seems to mistake his verbosity for intelligence! The interior minister was pissed because he said someone accused him of being a drunkard and marijuana smoker. That bothered him more than the accusation that he was in charge when Solo Sandeng was killed. I guess he’s okay with that accusation!

Any thinking person knows that Yahya Jammeh did indeed fill the ranks of the security forces with people he thought he could count on. Yahya Jammeh was a tribalist who pitted tribes against each other in order for him to lord over all of us. And he never lacked idiots willing to propagate his tribal nonsense. But we also know that there are many in the security services with forged documents, even if they’re bonafide Gambians! Wait till a real civil service reform takes place and see how many Gambians parade about with fake or exaggerated credentials. One of them was part of that team briefing us on security sector reforms! Security sector reform or any reform that requires looking at personnel issues is always a sensitive issue that requires careful analysis but bold decision making. That certainly does not include a so called government spokesman going to the media castigating one individual as a sign of what’s wrong with the security service!

To ensure a transformative security sector reform policy that responds to the realities of the security challenges faced by The Gambia today, one must commence at the foundation and ask difficult but fundamental questions that will frame the strategic direction of such a policy. It is tempting to consider the genesis of Security Sector Reform as more or less a process of realigning the existing security sector landscape but for a better and more comprehensive reform, security sector reform efforts must be realistic, people-centered, accountable, fit for purpose, financially viable and more critically, take into consideration our realities as a nation. That includes the tribal realities and its attendant ignorance!

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