The Gambia Armed Forces has said its personnel will hand over suspected criminals to the police.

The army’s statement comes after launching what it calls “Operation restore sanity”, aimed at restoring public order and safety amid rise in crimes. 

But the intervention in policing matters has received mixed reactions from the public.

Gambia army PRO Major Sanyang

However the army’s director of Press and Public Relations Major Lamin K. Sanyang has defended the operation.

“If anyone is arrested, we will process you, take your details, from there we hand you over to the police.

“So, we are not going to keep people for any longer. Once we bring them in, probably the following day we will process them and hand them over to the police for prosecution with any evidence we may have,” Major Sanyang said. 

He assured that the army during the operation would not violate the rights of the people as in the past, adding that “those days have long gone when we will be torturing people, arresting people or violating their human rights.”

However, human rights activist Madi Joberteh said the army should not be involved in policing matters. 

“We have the National Guards Regulations under the Gambia Armed Forces Act. The regulations do give police functions to the national guards. But the regulations place the national guards under the authority of the Attorney General. 

“Yet, I do not see any reference to that in his write up here or in their press release. They should be reporting to the attorney general in the execution of their duties. But are they doing that? I doubt [it].”

“Please restore sanity in the security institutions first and then come help us restore sanity in our communities,” he posted on his Facebook page.

Sulayman Ben Suwareh, a Gambian strategist and intelligence analyst is not in support of the operation by the national guards. 

He believes it will undermine the police morale and might raise serious concerns on human rights abuse, among others.

“In my observations, we have various types of crimes that are rising, in that case, we must apply different strategies to tackle the problem, sending the army in the manner we did will only undermine the police morale and might raise serious concerns on human rights abuse and the disruption to the judicious way of policing.

“The government should support the police with the resources required for them to be able to tackle the rise of crime without getting the army involved!” he emphasised.

The United Kingdom based analyst added that the surge in crime and related activities is manifesting the failure of the security sector reforms and a further proof of the failure of the transition governance.

“The failure of creating reforms during the transitional period has warranted our security law enforcement agencies, social services, the criminal justice system, and society at large to collapse. This failure has created a maniac of youths and violent crimes.

“The current epidemic of youth violence has been exacerbated by the failure of this government to introduce and implement well-funded policies that will tackle our socio-cultural and political needs through reforms of institutions,” he said.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba

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