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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Columnist: Nana Owusu-Sekyere

Gambia not out of the woods yet

Gambia's President Adama Barrow Gambia's President Adama Barrow

By: Nana Owusu-Sekyere

The pomp and pageantry that greeted the newly elected president of the Gambia Mr Adama Barrow on Thursday 26/1/2017 was undoubtedly a warm one.

Warmth which symbolised unity, oneness and the preparedness for a paradigm shift from the erstwhile percieved autocratic regime of Jammeh.

But the sustenance of this national unity is not absolute yet; given the hurdles to cross and the myriad of work to be done.

The Gambia must expeditiously cross the rubicon to lay a solid foundation for the speedily growth of the country .

For the trained eye, the country isn't out of the woods yet and may want to consider the perspective below to accelerate development, consolidate national unity and deepen the much needed peace and security.

Jammeh's 22yr rule under a litmus test will fail in many areas with respect to good governance . But what kept him sailing was a security base that were so loyal to him as a person.

Depoliticizing and over hauling the army / security sector cannot be a matter for tomorrow especially considering a whooping 70% of the service men are loyalist of the Jammeh administration.

It is even disturbing to know that majority have the same ethnic background as Jammeh. How professional can a national army be, when it's interest is in one man and not the entire nation?

This path of providing security for a nation only breeds a hypocritical army and a divided nation.

The new President faces the greatest challenge of overhauling the security sector whiles holding the virtues of nationalism.

It will be a great mistake to assume that for the purposes of national unity he should keep them all.

Any move to keep them all could serve as an excellent reprisal base for Jammeh to use anyday. And this in itself would be a national insecurity.

It is also important that the process of overhauling doesn't take the shape of tribalism ethnicity or cronyism. This will only amount to what I call the ' jammerism' ie reintroducing the Jammeh style.

The element of time is crucially necessary in all these. The understanding here is that if it will take 6months to complete the overhaul, it means that the potency of the army will be decreased or weakened for 6 months which invariably will be gap for any adversary.

In the broader scheme of things and for security reasons , Gambia could revive the *Senegambia confederation* which broke down in 1989, for Senegal to provide a limited security exercise as the country tries to find it's feet.

The over 36% of citizens who voted for Jammeh cannot be forgotten. Years of bonding have made them hardliners of Jammeh. They are lurking around and waiting to test the paws of the new administration.

A conscious effort must be made to bring them under the umbrella of unity to dispell any feeling of exclusion. When exclusion reaches its all time high, it will create a fertile ground for reprisal/insecurity.

This security dilemma as established above only challenges the Gambian government to speed up in building a strong security institution/measure to prevent the country from backsliding.

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