A top Gambian analyst, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, has said that the presence of the regional forces in the country will not prevent the long-term securities risks if the president does not win the trust of the army.
President Adama Barrow has been brought to power through the help of regional troops on orders of the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States after winning the election on December 1, 2016.
Since their intervention, the regional troops are still in charge of security in the country, and Barrow has not visited a single military camp since, fueling rumors of his mistrust in the army.
“Many Gambians do not understand the army during Jammeh’s era. I can tell you that over 75 percent of Gambia’s military men will not die for Jammeh. They just don’t have a choice. It was not just the army that was following Jammeh,” said Ceesay.
“What about the ministers who were around him? So many people thought that the whole army was loyal to Jammeh but soldiers will tell you that Jammeh had more sophisticated weapons at State House than all other camps put together.”
Ceesay said: “Barrow is the commander in chief of the armed forces but did he one day visit any military barracks since he came to power? That should have been his first mission.”
“He should go to the army and tell them that he is the arm forces commander in chief and that he has trust in the army in defending our territorial integrity. And he can talk to them about their problems.”
Gambia’s security is currently in the hands of both the regional forces and the Gambians. There are currently 500 regional forces in the country but the government has requested for an addition and an extension of the mandate to 1 year, sources have said.
The Gambia is currently facing a complicated security situation, many analysts said. About a week ago, two Gambian army deserters who fled with Jammeh to Equatorial Guinea sneaked back into the country through the airport with the help of insiders who are still loyal to Jammeh.
Barrow admitted that the incident was a huge “security failure” but insisted that his army is loyal to him, despite claims that they are more loyal to Jammeh.
“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,” he said.
“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 utmost respect.”
“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.”
Barrow said his government is establishing a military academy as part of the reform efforts.
“I am not saying the ECOMIG should leave. We need ECOMIG but the longer they stay, the complicated our security situation becomes… There are military men who are not happy and they feel rejected by the administration… This could cause pockets of mutiny,” Ceesay said.
“We have seen a situation like this when the Nigerians were here during the first republic.”