By Kebba Jeffang
The president of The Gambia, Adama Barrow has admitted security lapses in the country, and confirmed the request for additional reinforcement for ECOMIG forces, his discussion with German President on migration, agreement regarding his term in office, economy and many others. Local and international Journalists held him for about an hour at State House in Banjul, on Thursday, January 25, 2018. It is part of his decision to meet the press every six months and react to issues that matter. Foroyaa has transcribed greater part of his answers which could be read below.
Lapses in the security: Is Gambia safe? This was the question raised by journalists Lamin Cham and Emil Touray.
I think The Gambia is safe but we accept and admit that there was a security failure and you always learn from your mistakes. It was a very unfortunate situation and we don’t want it to happen that way but we are looking out for ways and means of how to address such situations so that it will not happen again. But one thing is important, as a government we are working on security reforms. This is a very important area because recently, few months ago, we conducted a staff audit to ascertain the security status of the country, to know the numbers and the capacities. I think in conclusion, we have to improve on our training so that we build the capacity of our security infrastructure. I think it is very important. This is a wakeup call for us to see that we have to double our efforts to make sure we improve in that sector. It is very unfortunate but we have taken decisions. At the top level, they have what I think they have been suspended for inquiry in a wider context to know exactly what happened, then we will know what will be there next. I think there are a lot of rumours as far as security is concerned. Sometimes these things are exaggerated, I think so. So far there are challenges but of recent such things have happened and everybody is making noise out of it. It has taken one year but I don’t think we have any major incident in The Gambia.
Any possibilities of the extradition of ex-president Yahya Jamme to face prosecution? A question raised by Aboubacarr Saidykhan, Freelancer.
In everything there is a process that you follow. There is Commission of Inquiry going on, the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission is coming on. Whatever we are going to do, we will wait for those Commissions. You have to establish the truth first and know what you would do next. We are very committed to the rule of law, we believe in due process and we contested the elections based on the principle of democracy. We will follow those steps as a process then we know what the next move is. We are committed and everybody is under the law and there is no doubt about that. Before asking for assistance (from ECOWAS) we want to establish the truth first that is why we have these Commissions. You establish the truth, have the facts in your hands then you will know what is your next move but we wouldn’t want to speculate. There is strong bilateral relationship between The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea. I had the opportunity to have a tet-a-tet with the president of Equatorial Guinea. I think in that line we have opened a window of communication which is very important.
The request for additional troop of 500 hundred ECOMIG forces was the question raised by Kebba Jeffang of Foroyaa Newspaper.
We have requested for a troop of 1000 but already 500 were on the ground. Because if you look at the numbers, when ECOMIG came to this country the number was up to 4000. It was reduced to 500. We saw the need that 500 was on the low side and this is in the transition period. We were advised that this is not enough and based on that advice we requested for 1000 but we were given 500. We are still waiting for the other 500 which is yet to come. You have to look at the situation in the Gambia. We are in the transition period and for 22 years, you know what was happening in this country. We need others to help us move. We need to train and educate our people. Business is not as usual, it is a different dispensation completely and we have to look at how they can fit in that dispensation. That needs to be outlined. We are training some of our personnel and some will be going for a training in Senegal. Professionalism is very important. We are very committed to that and we are starting a military academy in this country for them to have capacity, knowledge and know what their roles are as far as governance is concerned. It depends on ECOWAS which country is going to volunteer and bring in troops. That is not the decision for the Gambia.
On what he discussed with the German President on Migration was another question raised by Aboubacarr Saidykhan, Freelancer.
What I told the German President was we have to look at this in a wider context. It is a global problem which affects everybody. It is not a matter of deporting them back to their countries that will solve the problem. If you look at it in a wider context, you have to get a format to see how best to solve the problem. I further suggested also that most Africans who are travelling to Europe feel that they will have jobs there that will change their lives. But we have to create jobs at home. We have the labour force and when we create those initiatives here, those migrants will be influenced to come back home. I think we have to look at it in those contexts to solve the problem.
On how people would decide on his five year or three year period in Office was the question raised by Lamin Cham of the The Standard Newspaper.
This question of three years or five years, I think the debate will continue. Last time you asked me this question I said let us leave it to the Gambian people. I think this was the debate in Senegal two years back. The President himself promised that he will serve five years and the Constitution says seven years. I think later the final answer was the Senegalese people made a decision through a referendum. Before arriving to that they made a lot of process until everybody agreed that we should now go to the Senegalese people. We will follow the same process, not referendum but we will leave that to the Gambian people and we will follow what they say.
On the President’s commitment towards Gambian football was another question raised by Lamin Cham of the The Standard Newspaper.
I am a football fan. When you talk about football you talk about the youth. It is not about football only but it is about the youth because definitely if you inherit an economy that is as bad as one month import cover you are in a very difficult situation. We have been working very hard to stabilize the economy. As we stabilize the economy, I am telling you all sectors are interconnected. That is the time when we can know what to do next. But as far as we are in this situation it will be very difficult to predict what we are going to do tomorrow.
On Nepotism giving reference to the Interior Minister Mballow (said to be his brother-in-law) was the question raised by Lamin Darboe of Eye Africa TV.
The question of nepotism, when I appoint people I don’t know if people will comment or not but when I appoint those I know, people will comment. Several people have been appointed in this government and I have never seen most of them before. The Governor of West Coast Region that I appointed recently, I landed at the airport and they introduce him to me as Governor. I don’t know him. I only know one Governor across the country who is now the Interior Minister. I have appointed rest of them when I never saw any of them. We saw the CVs and we realized that their level of education will help them to handle the positions. But when one person come who is known to Adama Barrow, people will start to talk. When you are looking at things, you don’t consider them in a narrow way but in a wider context. I will tell you that the interest of the Gambia is what I am concerned with. If the people I know are the ones I will appoint, then I would not have removed Mai Ahmad Fatty. He is my close friend since childhood. He was also my lawyer before I became the president. We are so closed and up to now we communicate. The friendship remained but I consider what the interest of the country is and that is why I took that decision at that time. That is why, around me, you will not see my nephew and my brother and they are all around. I distance them from me. I told them to go as I am the president and not them.
On the allegation that ECOMIG Forces are seizing logs from timber dealers was another question raised by Emil Touray, Freelancer.
This timber thing is a big problem. Senegal is concerned about this timber thing. The whole business is all fraud and I don’t think we should endorse something like that. When I came to power we stopped everything but people came to me to appeal because they invest their money in this timber business. Some of them are local business men. I spoke to Macky Sall that some of our citizens are involved in this and are putting their monies. Let us open it for one week so that they can just clear their stocks and then we close it. Let’s formalize it in a formal business. But they thought it was the same thing and decided to go for the stocks again. Now we have a task force. In all the landing areas, we have police who are based there permanently to stop this timber business in this country. When we formalize it and you want to do business, you can register and buy timber legally, bring and sell it.
On the electricity situation in the country was the question raised by Momodou Jallow of GRTS.
This energy thing is a big issue and it is top in our priority list. Without reliable and affordable electricity, we cannot develop as a nation because the investors will not come. We have a roadmap and we want to stabilize first and then solve the problem.
Aquestion on the Bakoteh SOS clinic closing temporally due to serious fog pollution from the nearby dumpsite was a pertinent question raised by Kebba Jeffang of Foroyaa Newspaper, follow up by Lamin Kanteh of Eye Africa TV.
I am not aware of that. They have closed their clinic? I am not aware of that but I know the situation at the dumpsite has improved since that incident. We have signed a contract with the Continental Africa. According to their representative in The Gambia, they have already shipped their vehicles and received their bill of landing. So very soon the vehicles will be here and the work will start.
Another question was on Oil exploration raised by Kebba Jeffang of Foroyaa Newspaper.
There is an Oil Company that has promised to start exploration within the period of six months. We are giving people timeline because they cannot register and sit on our block like that. We want to ascertain whether it is Alhamdulillah project (Lots of Laughter). I cannot remember the names of the Company but there is a Company that is ready to start the exploration by June.
On the visit of Chinese President to the Gambia was a question raised by a foreign journalist.
I will be very pleased if he responds positively to come to The Gambia. China is the second largest economy in the world. If the president of China should come to The Gambia even the media coverage alone is big. He will have first-hand information and that will put him in a very strong position for him to help and partner with this country in the development process especially farming.
On whether the President’s family uses public health facilities (a transcribed question in Sarahulli) by Alpha Karaga of Star Fm Radio.
Everybody gets sick therefore we should make the best use of what we have, improve and upgrade them and get medication. There are doctors who arrived from China and some are also coming.