In these days of austerity and crippled Gambian economy, one of the great opportunities for cost savings for our current government is to abolish the military and the so-called State Intelligence Service (SIS). The absence of these military and spy agency expenditures could save a large portion of the national budget, which can then be dedicated towards much needy developmental activities of the country. In a country like ours, a focus on military and SIS spending would mean foregoing other important spending priorities. The Gambia has this useless military and scrupulous spy agency, but an unreliable public infrastructure ranging from hospitals, roads, schools, etc. I say let’s create a strong police and paramilitary forces and assign them with the tasks of ensuring the safety and security of Gambian citizens.
The Gambia could model what other nations have done – have paramilitaries or a national guard of some kind, but no armed forces as conventionally defined. “Panama has survived with no armed forces for 20 years, and it’s been 140 years since Iceland had an army. Haiti has a police force with limited military capabilities instead of an army, as does Mauritius”. And even better example is Costa Rica that permanently dissolved their armed forces in 1949 to protect the country’s democracy. Their constitution forbids the forming of a standing army, making them pretty much unique. Their role as international peacemaker has been well recognized by UN’s University for Peace.
Could the Gambia do without dedicated armed forces and the notorious spy agency altogether? Absolutely! What the Gambia needs is some kind for emergencies or have a treaty with another nation in the event that the country gets into trouble. The bottom line is that the amount we spend on defense doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with how dangerous the world actually is towards our tiny nation.
Proponents will argue about the absurdity of abolishing the armed force with questions of what to do with all these jobless adults after the armed force is obliterated! Though far-fetched, I suggest that we take a look at how US has done it by creating some sort of GI Bill for free vocational schools training. These vocational rehab can help develop new skills that build on military experience so veterans can remain competitive in the workforce. The training and education can come in a form of a degree, an apprenticeship or technical school, etc. I agree this will be a new discussion of its own, but I suggest that we explore the possibilities…
Let the Gambia government ABOLISH all branches of the armed force and the so-called SIS for they are too costly to maintain. And most importantly, having to do without a dedicated armed force that never will never see combat will deter the possibilities of future army coups against our democratic elected governments.
Lamin Jobarteh (Jobs)