President Barrow said: “When my administration was sworn in last January, it was clear to us that we were taking over a security sector that had been deeply politicised and not responsive to the needs of our people.” The reforms initiated are to ensure an effective and accountable security sector under democratic control with full respect for human rights, the rule of law, and fundamental principles of good governance.
President Barrow noted the importance of reforming and transforming the country’s security sector into a functional and effective one that delivers for the good of the Gambian people. “The security sector reform process will enable us to once again take charge of our own security and destiny.”
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, commended the government’s initiative to embark on this important political process, and renewed the UN’s commitment to support this endeavour along with other partners. He explained that the security sector reform process ought to be inclusive and participatory, with the aim of making justice and security institutions accessible and responsive to the needs and rights of all Gambians.
ECOWAS Ambassador to The Gambia Vabah Gayflor said ECOWAS was proud of President Barrow and the efforts of his administration in the restoration of democracy in The Gambia. She added that The Gambia could not afford to fail, and that when its security sector reform is implemented, it would serve as the security sector reform template to follow in Africa. She concluded that there was a lot of work to be done with limited resources, and urged partners to fulfill their promise to The Gambia.
EU Ambassador Attila Lajos said security sector reform in The Gambia faced deep-seated challenges after 22 years of a repressive regime. He added that the country’s stability was important, and reforming the security sector was a key priority to stabilising its democracy and making The Gambia a human rights champion. He noted that coordination and timely sequencing by the partners was of paramount importance.
Interior Minister Mai Fatty said President Barrow had set the tone for the future of the security sector when he launched the National Security Council. Minister Fatty stressed that the reform process would lead to the emergence of a professional, ethical and competent security sector. He noted that building an effective governance policy was a complex task but that the government would achieve its objectives and do everything to keep the country safe, stable and at peace. “We will position our country to confront the security challenges of the 21st century and serve the needs of a democratic society,”
The new National Security Adviser, Retired Colonel Momodou Badjie, said a well organised security sector is important for economic development and democratic growth. He noted the challenges in the security sector and called on stakeholders to focus on institutional and organisational reforms. Mr Badjie noted the importance of balancing defence and the needs of the country, while working with various structures of society.
Supported by the United Nations and other partners, the Security Sector Reform project is an initiative by the Barrow administration to transform the country’s security sector into institutions that are effective, professional and accountable to the state and the people of The Gambia. It will help the government design and implement an inclusive security reform strategy, which will ensure that the security forces accomplish their constitutional mandate and mission, in line with the rule of law and democratic principles of transparency and accountability.
The government has set up a steering committee to provide guidance and oversight of the reform process. It is made up of representatives from relevant ministries, including Defence, Interior, Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Finance, Justice, and key security sector reform partners, notably the United Nations, African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU).
The launch of the Security Sector Reform project was attended by security chiefs, cabinet ministers, members of the diplomatic corps and senior officials.