By Almamo Kamaso
The UDP National Assembly member for Upper Fulladu West and member of the Standing Committee on defense and Security present a paper on the above topic last week at a local hotel in the Senegambia tourism industrial areas. Hon Jawara in an eight points statement indicated that failure of the system to adequately address poverty, unemployment and to deliver public services on a daily basis are some of the major challenges of our security.
The lawmaker is of the views that, Security upholds the peace and stability that is essential to any political dispensation and socio-economic efforts.
Below is an extract from a very long and interesting presentation pick from his Facebook page:
This aspect of security is intimately linked to many other forms of insecurity in the context of social and economic development. I, therefore, intend to broaden the topic under discussion to embrace other important aspects of security issues that are seen as challenges that we face as a nation and as seen from the perspective of the National Assembly:
1. A failure to adequately address issues of poverty and unemployment is one of the major challenges to security. We experience a high rate of poverty (48%), and unemployment particularly amongst the youths, which makes our youthful population adversely attracted to crime. The back way syndrome seems to go on unabated, and the cloud of uncertainty in the deportation of Gambian migrants is a living challenge to security and development issues.
2. A failure or incapacity of government to deliver public services and the daily hike of prices on basic needs creates a pool of frustration that can be readily inflamed and can lead to brutal confrontations. Our public services in education, electricity, healthcare and sanitation remain to be socio-economic challenges. The social media is vibrant with pent up frustration about our public utilities and student dissatisfaction is not uncommon.
3. The existence of corporate social “irresponsibility” can set in motion a series of real or perceived security issues as witnessed in the Faraba sand mining controversy, the Gunjur land dispute, the fishmeal factory operations and more recently the Sanyang incident.
4. Land disputes, ethnic and religious conflict generally exist where the relationships between members of various groups and/or religions lack the necessary cordiality and understanding in order to maintain social cohesiveness. This may not be a prominent feature in the imminent challenges we face but the simmering effects of acrimonious religious debates between different sects and the unfavorable perspective and suspicion of one ethnic group from another are slightly felt at the national or regional level – such as the disputes of the construction of mosques, the use of burial sites, the issue of a caste system, land disputes, etc which can lead to violent confrontations.
5. A mismatch between public and government perceptions on policy issues can result in vicious outcomes as we have seen the student riots of the past and the Three Years Jotna political confrontation. Such situations and some of the above can often further fuel public anger and dissatisfaction in addition to the excessive use of control measures.
6. Inadequate equipment for the security services, both in training and equipment in order to handle security situations, inevitably results in a weak security system which can further develop into poor behavioral attitude from the security personnel that can ignite public crisis.
7. The Gambia is known for its porous borders which is an immense challenge. We witness frequent border incursions from the neighboring country with near miss deadly encounters with the public. The porosity of the borders also facilitates the slipping of criminals in and out of the country.
8. It may sound alarming to mention terrorism as a national security challenge, but with The Gambia planning to host the OIC summit in 2022, and knowing very well the types of vices that such gatherings attract, and the bounty on personalities such as the Royal Prince of Saudi Arabia, I am only doing so in a proactive manner. Nonetheless, terrorism is no doubt the most fundamental challenge to security and any national development efforts. The atrocious activities of terrorist in the Sahel region are very well known to all of us. These activities mainly emanate from fundamentalist religious thinking of which we are not immune from as a nation. The disputes among religious sects and the competition for dominance and recognition are always a heated debate and showdown. As a threat, therefore, there is a need to act proactively with intelligence gathering and surveillance.
It is quite clear that politics, socio-economic development and security are all very much interrelated. In terms of the perspective of the National Assembly, and in a more specific context, security is seen as a public good. In this context, it certainly competes for funds with other public goods such as health, education, agriculture and infrastructure.
However, security is a public good that is very central to good governance which requires the preservation of democratic values, the cultivation and preservation of strong institutions, and importantly, the delivery of public services in order to satisfy public aspirations.