In opening four police stations, the President of the Republic decided to take up issues with journalists who report on crime and political commentators who comment on security sector reform. The security sector reform is more than just change of personnel, he said.
According to the president, the building of model police stations is part of the infrastructure development for the ongoing Security Sector Reform.
He said there cannot be any security sector reform without infrastructural development, and these infrastructures conform to the international standard that will promote human rights.
The president urged the communities where the stations are, to join hands with the police to promote safety and security in the country.
Regarding reports on crime rates, he implied that it has decreased in the sense that, ‘… according to statistics, last week alone I think 65 cases were reported to the police for the entire week across the country. That means we have less than 9 or 8 cases in a day’.
He further added that journalists report crime cases in a bad way and this may scare tourists that are planning to come to the Gambia. He urged them to report crime cases in a ‘nice way to encourage the people.’
It is important to accept the contract with the people. Section 26 of the Constitution says the people of The Gambia have a right to equal access to public services, both social and security services. What is really needed is a comprehensive analysis of where the country was in terms of security service delivery, where it is now and where it intends to be in the short, medium and long terms.
The inauguration of a police station may be utilized to reflect on the security needs of the area and what has been done to address those needs. And it would have been significant challenges such as congestion of cells, improvement on the working condition of the workers, the digitalization of recordings at police stations, better service conditions for the officers and provision of sanitary conditions of prisoners as well as their food requirements.
However if the president seeks to address the issue of security sector reform and crime it would be best done in an address to the nation, stating how records at police stations have been digitalised to ensure accurate recording, what the records and shortcomings are and what is to be done in the short, medium and long term.
In terms of security sector reform, the president should give information on developments regarding the laws governing security sector reform, the human, material and financial resources needed to improve infrastructure, training of personnel, the provision of uniform and equipment, the remuneration of service personnel and determination of their relation of the community they serve.
There is need to do a comprehensive survey on where police stations are situated and their access to transport and other equipment in order to conduct their services. A government should be concerned with what the people are saying, especially at the border area where the presence of security forces may be very thin and cross border crime may be a threat.
Recently, villagers had to evacuate because of war between the Senegalese forces and armed groups in Casamance.
In short, opinions expressed in the press or electronic media are just opinions to be taken or rejected. The fact however remains that it is the duty of the government to determine the security challenges of the people and find a solution to them. Opinions and counter opinions will not wash away the realities confronting the security sector of the Gambia.