The experience of West African states emerging from conflict over the last two decades has shown that security is a prerequisite for economic and social development as well as regional integration, the Interior minister, Ousman Sonko has underscored.
Speaking at a local hotel in Kololi Thursday while presiding over the opening ceremony of a two-day Inter-governmental Expert Meeting on the Review of the ECOWAS Regional Framework on Security Sector Reform/Governance (SSR/G), Sonko asserted that it is also acknowledged that security can only be ensured through democratic control of the security sector. He said democratically run, an accountable and competent security sector helps to reduce conflicts, enhance security of citizens, and in the process helps to create the necessary conductive environment and sustained peace and stability.
Sharing The Gambia's experience with regional experts, the minister informed that the government under the leadership of President Jammeh has embarked on security sector reform by mainstreaming gender in the sector's development, thus coming up with measures to promote the equal participation of men and women in the security institutions. "The Gambia Police Force has introduced a Human Rights Unit, a Professional Standard Unit, Compliant and Discipline Unit and a Code of Conduct is also being drafted for the police and the other security institutions, all geared towards making them accountable to the citizens," he told the meeting.
He further indicated that capacity development is being provided to the police, military and other security institutions to develop an understanding, respect and acceptance of each other's role as well to promote professional synergy and partnership. On the framework, Sonko acknowledged that it is going through a process of development that would culminate in its adoption by ECOWAS member-states to serve as regional action plan and the development of national security reform/governance strategies. "The 2001 Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance of ECOWAS constitute the bedrock for the civilian control of the armed forces and security in the region. Rendering the security sector more efficient and more accountable to the democratic institutions is a sine quo non for enhancing the provision of security to citizens. In countries at risk of conflict or post conflicts countries, it can be of central importance for stability or conflict prevention. Developing the policy framework is timely given the formidable political and security challenges confronting our sub-region," he noted.
The minister encouraged the participants to critically review the documents with a view to making tangible recommendations that would enrich the document prior to its validation. 'The recommendations should be supported by our respective governments to fulfill their legitimate security functions in unison. This could be only achieved through reform that would make the delivery of the security more effective and efficient, by reducing the potential for both internal and external conflicts," he concluded.
Speaking on behalf of the commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security at the ECOWAS Commission, Colonel Abdourahmane Dieng said the recent examples of Mali and Guinea Bissau have given credence to the urgency that should be accorded to the development of such a document. The role of ECOWAS, he pointed out, has thus become crucial in assisting member states to prevent, anticipate, prepare and respond better and faster to issues that could challenge security and stability of the region.
"The purpose of the meeting therefore was to contribute to consolidating security and development in the ECOWAS region through this document we will be examining during the meeting. The dynamics of the security in the world today have witnessed increased participation of the armed forces in resolving or combating internal security issues or public disorder. On the other hand the police and other law enforcement agents are increasingly assuming military or combat roles and postures while confronting issues that threaten state security or public disorder in recent times," he concluded.