Every Gambian is saddened and distressed by the unfortunate incident that unfolded in Faraba. This is as a result of the clashes between the unarmed Faraba civilians and the then notorious Police Intervention Unit (PIU) whom we all assume have reformed or on the verge of reform and self-reflection. The incident recalls the brutality and heavy-handedness of PIU under the former regime. This must stop and stop now. The Inspector General of the Gambia Police force (IGP) did an honorable thing by resigning. The Minister of Interior and all the High Command of the security forces responsible for the West Coast Region must all resign now or be removed. In that way, a strong signal can be sent that we are indeed in a new dispensation and that the days of dictatorship, brutality and impunity are long gone and shall never return to the Gambia. We condemn the deaths of the three unarmed and defenseless civilians and the brutality meted against others. The scene of the Gambian journalist Pa Modou Bojang showing his injuries sustained under Police watch at Brikam Police Station is unacceptable and inhumane. Pa Modou was one of the staunchest fighters of dictatorship and despotism in the Gambia and that must be recognised and hailed. The incident is demonstrative of the fragility of the security sector that some observers have been saying. Therefore, the Government must take some bold and quick decisions as for example:
- Prosecute all those involved in the killings of the innocent civilians. It is good to note that a Presidential Inquiry is on the way to reach the bottom of the matter
- Removal of the Minister of Interior and the High Command of the Security Service
- Cleanse and sanitise the security force and other Government agencies from rogue elements of the former regime
- Issuance of license to sand mine anywhere in the Gambia should be done in compliance with the law and in consultation with the local community
- Environmental and ecological considerations should be made before issuance of such licenses
- Community development should be considered
The above suggestions relate to immediate actions. However, the broader perspective in my view maybe related to the following:
- Institutional Building: Building democracies from the rubble of dictatorships, and elections, independence of institutions, fair and free elections, representative elections, rights of disenfranchised minorities
- Behavioural change: One of the challenges we face in the Gambia is how to change our worldview, attitudes and behaviour. We should change from being negative to positive. Change also means from being dependent to interdependent. The new Government should make all efforts to stamp out corruption, favouritism and cronyism. These agents of backwardness and antagonism in any society should be discouraged.
- Political organisation and representation: there is a need to develop further political representation at all levels to promote inclusivity and no sector of the society will be marginalised. Women and the youths should be well represented. Community concerns should be equally represented
- Pluralist political culture: the culture of pluralist politics with different persuasions should be encouraged for nation-building. We should not shy away from having divergent views and opinions if they are constructive and positive and do not contravene the laws of the land.
- Economic development: Good political dispensation should go hand in hand with meaningful economic development. It is hoped that the national development plan will be implemented
The Speech of the President Mr Barrow at Faraba was presidential, statemanly and reconciliatory. He called for national unity and expressed his condolences to the victims and their families. He particularly emphasised the need to preserve peace and conversation in order to resolve our differences. He thanked the Supreme Islamic Council and other religious groups for promoting dialogue and understanding.
In the end, we pray to Allah the Almighty to maintain peace in the Gambia. We believe that the democratic dividend will be enhanced. The Faraba incident is a wakeup call that security in the Gambia requires reform and transformation as quickly as possible. Let us not take the peace in the Gambia for granted. Rather, we should strive to maintain it. May God bless the Gambia. We send our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and may Allah give healing to the injured.