General Melingui Nouma, Commander of the 21st Motorised Infantry Brigade and General Officer Commanding, South West Region.
What is your take on growing complaints that the South West Region is heavily militarised?
The South West region is far from being militarised. Ever since the crisis started in November 2016, no new military unit has been created. There has been no increase in the number of security forces more than what we are supposed to have. This brigade I am commanding now was created in 2014 and when you create a brigade, you cannot just transfer all the officers, non-commission officers and all the soldiers who are supposed to make up the brigade in one day. Some of them were sent this year and we received them as military being sent to their posts of responsibility and not for reinforcement. This brigade is still even below the normal number of soldiers. We are going gradually, step by step. The capacity is not up to date as at now. So, there is no way we can talk of militarisation.
We still notice some pockets of resistances in other areas notably in Manyu and Lebialem Divisions. What is being done to completely bring life to normal in these areas?
The centre of gravity of the crisis we are managing is the population. We know that to overcome this crisis, we need to work with the population. There is no way you can harass people you are sent to protect. If the population cannot tell us the problem, if they cannot give us the correct information on what is happening on the field, it would be difficult for us to protect them. And once we fail to protect them, they can tend to follow the secessionists. We are putting in our best to work out all the security measures for the safety of the population and their belongings. But we still have some resistant people who are trying to manoeuvre or are terrorising others in their villages. We try to set up operations to rescue these areas so that life continuous normally.
After the September 22 and October 1st uprisings, the Government saluted the professionalism of security officers. As their leader, what are you doing to ensure that they remain as such?
First of all, we talk to our people, we meet them and tell them what we need and what they have to do when they are on the field. We also tell them what not to do. I am not saying that our defence forces are completely blameless. We are also conscious of the fact that when they are alone, they can also do something else. What I am saying is that the number of wayward cases are less than what is being propagated. We make every single effort to make the population feel at ease with us. There are even cases where the population goes, arrests people disturbing them in villages and brings to us because they have realised that what we are doing is the correct thing to be done. So, we are working closely with the population. We are letting them know that we are here for their security.