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New Interior Minister wants Gambia Police Force to be Gambia Police Service

Feb 9, 2017, 11:14 AM | Article By: Bruce Asemota

The Minister of the Interior, Ahmed Mai Fatty, has said his intention is to change the Gambia Police Force into the Gambia Police Service, as it is a force to serve the Gambian people.

Minister Fatty made this known yesterday, when declaring open a three-day training of trainers’ workshop on human rights protection for law enforcement officers organised by Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), and held at the Paradise Suites Hotel.

The new Interior minister, asserting that policing needs to be a respected public service, said the institution will be reformed, reviewed and expanded to make the service more attractive, and to improve community policing with respect for human rights at the core.

“We will review the Police Act; we will look at the Prisons Service Act and reform the Prisons Service; and look at every legislation as it affects the sovereignty of every citizen and individuals, because every citizen is important.”

Minister Fatty said the workshop was timely and important as everyone is talking about the new Gambia, adding that the new Gambia is a new citizen with new consciousness as every Gambian has a role to play.

The Gambia is fundamentally different from what it used to be, he went on, adding that on December 1, 2016 when Gambians voted, they voted for their future; they voted to change their lives; they voted not only to change the government, but the system and to replace it with something they desire.

He declared that as the minister tasked with the internal security of the country, respect for human rights is an integral component of the security of society, adding that it is the foundation of good governance.

The Gambian people’s sovereignty should be respected and their dignity upheld so that constitutionality, the rule of order, be restored to ensure an enabling environment and atmosphere for them to realize their God-given talents.

Minister Fatty said the liberty of the individual is sacrosanct, in the perfection of everything that would build up a greater foundation for a compassionate society.

“A society that cares for its citizens; the rule of law and sustainable development - when we say that, we mean we must respect the rights of a subject and he/she should not be detained beyond the constitutional period - put yourself in their own shoes.”

He continued: “Would you like to be detained beyond the constitutional period; would you like to be tortured; sent to jail without having your bail in court; would you like to be brutalized, maltreated or be in an environment where nobody cares about the law, but the executive directives in exercise of marauding powers?”

Minister Fatty further stated that policing is about acting as servant of the people; and that his vision is to have service delivery police force that would serve the people, and the country as it the responsibility and obligation of the police to serve the people.

“The people pay you and me, the tax-payers, the ordinary Gambian sitting at the market roasted peanuts. The people pay us to serve them.”

Minister Fatty assured the workshop participants (mainly police officers) that some of the instruments, both domestic and international, including the constitution would be of valuable importance to them.

He noted that The Gambia Constitution is one of the best, as there are entrenched clauses that protect the fundamental rights of the individual.

“We don’t need more laws; what we need is the steady enforcement of the existing laws, if we go by the dictates of the constitution and directive principles of state policy that would enable us make our jobs easier.”

Minister Fatty added that he is aware that the police force has been working under extreme difficulties, challenges faced in terms of facilities, infrastructure, and capacity building, among others.

He assured the police officers that he is with them, and that he knows how hard and difficult it is for them to make ends meet.

Minister Fatty expressed gratitude to the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and their international partners for sponsoring the project.

In his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of IHRDA, Gaye Sowe, said the training workshop could not have come at a better time, when The Gambia is celebrating a rebirth, and transitioning into a fully democratic state with respect and regard for human rights and the rule of law.

Mr Sowe said the IHRDA had planned to have the workshop earlier this year, but could not due to the recent political impasse in the country.

He pointed out that the workshop was a continuation of a similar project, carried out from October 2015 to March 2016 for officers of the Gambia Police Force and other law enforcement agencies, to build their capacities on the human rights regulations that apply to policing.

He also said the IHRDA had organized eight workshops in seven locations across the country; two in the Greater Banjul area and one each in Basse, Farafenni, Janjangbureh, Mansakonko, Brikama and Barra, and that they had trained a total of over 300 officers at these workshops.

The IHRDA had produced a human rights manual for use of the police and other law enforcement agencies, he announced.

Director Sowe further stated that the workshop was part of a project design by the IHRDA to improve the situation of human rights in The Gambia, by building the capacities of officers of the Gambia Police Force.

As part of the project, the Executive Director said, the IHRDA would also develop a comprehensive human rights module in the curriculum of the training school for Gambian law enforcement officers, incorporating international human rights standards and their practical application to the Gambian context.

It would develop a user-friendly human rights training manual for Gambian public security officers, building on the human rights module to be developed as above, he continued.

The training manual will be developed with 150 copies to serve trainers at the training school, and other relevant senior officers who supervise staff in the service.

Director Sowe thanked the government of Canada and the CFLI for sponsoring the project.

Representatives of the Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and members of the diplomatic and consular corps attended the opening ceremony.