By Buba Gagigo
The Gambia National Guards launched Operation “RESTORE SANITY” on 11th June 2021. The Operation, according to the GAF announcement is aimed at restoring public order and public safety due to the sharp rise in criminality and criminal related activities in the country; and would involve vigorous patrols during the day, which would be intensified during the night.
On the implementation of the project, the Director of Press and Public Relations at the Gambia Armed Forces told Kerr Fatou in an interview that they would arrest, process and handover to the police suspects without keeping them for a long period.
“The plan is like if anyone is arrested, we will process you, take your details, from there we hand you over to the police. So, we are not going to keep people for any longer. Once we bring them in, probably the following day we will process them and hand them over to the police for prosecution with any evidence we may have,” Major Lamin K. Sanyang said.
The GAF Spokesperson assured that the army during the operation would not violate the rights of the people as in the past.
“Those days have long gone when we will be torturing people, arresting people or violating their human rights,” he assured.
Opinions remain divided on whether or not the move by the army is necessary given that the police perform similar duty and have recently launched a similar initiative dubbed “Operation Zero Crime” unit composed of other sister security forces including the army.
Human rights activist Madi Joberteh acknowledged that the National Guards Regulations has given the unit a police function.
“We have the National Guards Regulations under the Gambia Armed Forces Act. The regulations do give police functions to the national guards. But the regulations place the national guards under the authority of the Attorney General. Yet, I do not see any reference to that in his write up here or in their press release. They should be reporting to the attorney general in the execution of their duties. But are they doing that? I doubt [it],” said Human rights activist Madi Joberteh.
However, Yusef Tailor, alias Flex Dan, a journalist and activist, is opposed to the move. For him charity begins at home. Therefore, sanity should be restored within the security institutions first.
“Restore Sanity within the Security Institutions because from what we see at the TRRC there is hardly any sanity in some of our Security Institutions.
“SIS, Anti-Crime, Armed Forces, PIU to name a few. All of them have their own insane tragedy.
“Please restore sanity in the Security Institutions first and then come help us restore sanity in our communities,” he posted on his Facebook page.
Sulayman Ben Suwareh, a Gambian strategist and intelligence analyst is not in support of the operation by the national guards. He believes it will undermine the police morale and might raise serious concerns on human rights abuse, among others.
“In my observations, we have various types of crimes that are rising, in that case, we must apply different strategies to tackle the problem, sending the army in the manner we did will only undermine the police morale and might raise serious concerns on human rights abuse and the disruption to the judicious way of policing! The government should support the police with the resources required for them to be able to tackle the rise of crime without getting the army involved!” he emphasised.
The United Kingdom based analyst added that the surge in crime and related activities is manifesting the failure of the security sector reforms and a further proof of the failure of the transition governance.
“The failure of creating reforms during the transitional period has warranted our security law enforcement agencies, social services, the criminal justice system, and society at large to collapse. This failure has created a maniac of youths and violent crimes.
“The current epidemic of youth violence has been exacerbated by the failure of this government to introduce and implement well-funded policies that will tackle our socio-cultural and political needs through reforms of institutions,” Suwareh further observed.
Sulayman finally proposed as a remedy to the situation, a consultation with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive policy document that will be available for implementation in tackling the current epidemic of youth violence, which is now a public health problem.