Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has admitted to facing security challenges, a year into his rule but stressed that there is trust between him and the country’s armed forces.
Barrow came to power last year after a turbulent transition when former strongman, Yahya Jammeh refused to cede power pitching his loyalists in the army against the powerful West African forces.
“There is no security threat, but we have to be vigilant…We have accepted that it was a serious security failure and we are going to learn from it,” Barrow said.
Gambians questioned Barrow’s ability to protect the nation from external armed groups, notably those reported to be loyal to former President Jammeh after two of Jammeh’s generals that fled to exile with the ex-dictator walked into the country without an alert being raised.
It left citizens in awe and critics say Mr. Barrow has compromised the country’s security, an assertion that he [Barrow] has denied in at least two interviews following the arrival of Gen. Umpa Mendy and Gen. Ansumana Tamba.
I would not say security is compromised. But we accept that we have failed as far as security is concerned in recent days. As a nation, we always learn from our mistakes. We are taking steps to prevent such things happening in this country. But I think it has been exaggerated,” he said.
Five senior security personnel at the airport have since been suspended. An investigation into the “security oversight” has been launched, according to the president.
At least a dozen soldiers are facing treason charges after Gambia’s army foiled a plot by Jammeh’s loyalists to overthrow the Mr. Barrow, just five months into his rule. They include two relatives of the former president.
But Barrow, who has rolled out a security reform program targeting the military, with the help of the United Nations says there is trust between him and the army. He appointed Jammeh’s former army chief turned diplomat, Gen. Masanneh Kinteh as his Chief of Defense Staff.
“There is trust between me and the army, and we are doing a lot as far as the military is concerned. The environment today for the military is far better than it was before. They are better treated today, with the utmost respect,” said Mr. Barrow.
“We are reforming. I am the commander-in-chief of the army and all their files come here…There is a lot of training going on, and even some of our soldiers are going to Senegal for training very soon.”
West African troops are stationed in The Gambia providing security. They have been in charge of Mr. Barrow’s security since his coming to power. They help oust Jammeh and have Barrow sworn-in ushering a new era in The Gambia.
Barrow has widened their mandate and are to help train the Gambia’s army as part of the new ruler’s reform program. They are expected to stay in the country until the summer but their time is likely to be extended.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Writing by Mustapha Darboe and Omar Wally; Additional Reporting from Anadolu Agency and DW; Editing by Assan Sallah)