As calls intensify for United Nations General Assembly to declare a Climate Emergency, security experts are weighing in on the role Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) could play to combat deforestation, illegal logging and the depletion of the country’s coastal line.
“The policy framework allows the army to play this role,” the Centre for Security Sector Governance – DCAF Banjul Team Lead, Dr. Johnathan Marley, told this medium in an exclusive interview.
Last week, major stakeholders, national and international security and transitional justice experts gathered at Coral Beach Hotel in Bufut for the final session of the Forum for Dialogue. The forum, which was centred on transitional justice and Security Sector Reform (SSR) provided participants with the opportunity to assess the work that is being in both sectors, and set out recommendations on the way forward.
Dr. Marley, who also doubles as a Senior SSR Adviser, explained that function bestows on the army a humanitarian responsibility to deal with natural disasters.
“The legal framework is already in place for the armed forces to that, ” he added.
Many observers have predicted that the effects of Climate Change would be disastrous for many African countries due to their level preparedness.
Commenting on their ability to properly carry out any disaster relief mission, Dr. Marley emphasized the need for army personnel to undergo more training designed to increase their ability to deal with the Climate Emergency that is gradually taking shape across the globe.
“The potential impacts of Climate Change in The Gambia are well known,” he remarked citing coastal erosion as a huge issue.
He went further to say that agricultural challenges, illegal logging coming from Casamance, and the decline of the stock in the fisheries constitute major challenges that the country is confronted with.
Dr. Marley said the Navy has the manpower and expertise to deal with the threat posed by illegal fishing, but warned that the lack of equipment is preventing them to fulfill their mission.
As the Amazon and the Congo Rainforest continue to go up in smoke, DCAF Banjul Lead Team accused criminals gangs of being behind these attacks against the environment.
These gangs, he went on, are being the illegal logging that is the main cause of deforestation in Southern Senegal and all around the world.
In a similar vein, Brigadier General Momat Cham, who also spoke to this reporter, confirmed that part of the mission of the army is to respond to disasters including public health emergencies and mass casualty incidents.
“A part from our primary role to protect the territorial integrity of the country, we have the responsibility to engage into economic activity (agriculture) and to deal with disasters,” he said.
He expressed the army readiness to protect the environment, and contribute to the country’s efforts to boost reforestation.
General Momat Cham also confided to this reporter that a good number of army officers are currently undergoing training in various countries.
“We rely on capacity building to enable our engineers to carry out their mission,” he said. “We believe that most of the gov’t projects that are contracted to foreign companies could be given to the army.”