By Aja Musu Bah Daffeh
ECOWAS troops in The Gambia Monday 30th January 2017, held a press conference at the ECOMIG force headquarters at Bakau opposite Fajara Barracks. The conference centred on the troops mandate and missions as well as the safety measures they took in order to maintain peace and security in the country.
Speaking at the conference, Commander Francoise Ndiaye, the General Division Force Commander of the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG), told the journalists that this mission is the coalition of the ECOWAS member’s states or Coalition of the Willing.
“Three member states have pledged to give troops which includes Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria, the plaguing has specified the means to be deployed in which Senegal and Nigeria have deployed means and troops without any external contribution like Ground troops, Naval Forces and Air Force” said Ndiaye.
The ECOMIG commander said the mandate of ECOWAS is based on chapter 8 of the UN Charter, adding that ECOWAS has many protocols for peace and security relating to the principles of constitutional convergence and which, he added, was adopted in 1999 and 2001. He said the mandate is very clear that their main aim is to make sure that President Adama Barrow is protected, including the safety of the political leaders and the entire population. He said they are also to ensure that the required necessary action for President Barrow is taken place in order for him to effectively exercise power.
He added that the first phase of their work has been done already because President Barrow has returned to his country safely and now he is protected by the ECOWAS troops. He noted that the next phase is to ensure that the President resumes power for everything to run smoothly without any delay in the transition process.
Talking of completion of their mandate, Commander Ndiaye said their mandate could be reviewed, adding that they do not know whether they will stay longer or whether they have to go back to their respective countries.
Commander Ndiaye said he heard from the media that President Barrow has requested for the ECOWIG troops to stay in The Gambia for six months but added that such a request should be channel through ECOWAS.
The head of the ECOMIG forces said they do not have any problem with The Gambia Armed Forces as they were the ones who met them at the border. He said they will be working with their Gambian counterparts to make sure that the process experiences no delays to hamper or cause any security threats.
Regarding the toxic chemicals being rumoured to have been inserted in the air conditions at state house by the former president, Mr. Ndiaye said he personally went to the state house and asked the state guards to switch on the ACs at his own risk to know whether or not there is any chemical. He said he later confirmed that there was no chemical inserted or stored in the air conditions but rather found only pesticides for insects and that nothing happens to them, adding that they are now waiting for ECOWAS experts to go and cross check the state house.
He said to make the process successful, they have to gather all the stakeholders and that there are some necessary screenings to be done in the military being it the generals, NCO’s or soldiers.
Concerning Kanilai, he said they have a plan for the place which is a private residence as there should not be any military presence there. He promised that in the coming days there will not be any military at the place.
He said at Kanfenda, Gen. Musa Savage met and promised them that there will be no fight because he is a republican and loyalist to president Barrow, adding that ECOMIG is in control of all weapons and ammunitions.
“We entered the country for a purpose that is to fight and chase the former government, now that the security conditions are improving there is no need for us to use Alpha Jets or fighter jets because GAF have been very cooperative and we are now controlling the ammunitions and weapons. So there is no need for us to stay any longer that is why we are downsizing gradually but we are not leaving the same day. The alpha jets will fly back to Nigeria, the OPV’s will control the access of the Gambia ports because during the crisis they did not allow any commercial boats to enter the ports and we have ground troops in the country, those who entered from Basse, Soma and Seleti will go back as the security situation is fully under control,” said Commander Ndiaye.