The European Union Ambassador to The Gambia Attila Lajos says the African bloc—called the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), hasn’t approached the EU for financial assistance for the extension of the continued presence of the ECOMIG troops in The Gambia. Lajos was speaking in an interview with the Chronicle’s Sheriff Bojang jr. The EU Diplomat said the EU used to finance the presence of the ECOMIG forces in the country. He added that ECOWAS had extended the ECOMIG mission to The Gambia from the end of this coming September to the end of March 2020. Though he says the European Union was never consulted this time around for funding.
Lajos says the just about to end ECOMIG funding program, was financed by the European Union. “The funding is another issue. So far, the ECOWAS authority approached the European Union and asked for funding assistance, which so far, we did. Regarding the six months extension, there is no such request yet arrive at the EU level; I cannot speculate on that regard,” Ambassador Lajos remarked.
In recent months, Lajos was quoted as saying that there would be no guarantee that the EU will continue to sponsor the presence of the ECOMIG troops in The Gambia. He also criticized the slow pace of Gambia’s National Security reform program.
Lajos still maintains that the Barrow government should expedite the process for security reform. He also talked about the need for the state to have a professional security force that could meet the country’s short term and long-term security challenges.
“When it comes to sustainability, indeed it means that The Gambia, should have a security which is positive; which is for the purpose; and which is affordable and sustainable for The Gambia to sponsor on long term. In other words, The Gambia, for example needs professional police; this is what the people demands; the police is not well structured; not equipped the well way for it to be able to handle other challenges and execute their mandate,” he remarked.
He added that rationalizing Gambia’s security sector, would also help a long way in addressing the country’s challenges. This, he says, would require the retraining, and transferring of members of the security sectors to other units. He says during Jammeh’s regime, the country’s security sector was overcrowded with personnel.
The EU Ambassador also raised the issue of high security checkpoints in the country during his interview. He recently embarked on a weekend visit to the countryside, where he met saw so many police and military checkpoints.
Lajos doesn’t think that the checkpoints are serving any purpose to the country. He said officers on duty often begged travelers money to buy food, tea, among others. He said officers personally begged him money to buy the famous Gambian bread called tapalapa.
If you driver from here in Fajara to all the way to Soma or Basse, you go through so many police checkpoints than if you are driving from here to Dakar, which for the average Gambian shows that the Modus Operandi remains the same. There is protocol in the ECOWAS region which promotes the free movement of people; these are complaints I received from many communities and average Gambians,” he said.
Lajos says Gambian taxpayers are funding such checkpoints. He added that if the checkpoints are not bringing any value to the country, it should be scrapped.
“These checkpoints are just there for no other purposes,” he remarked.