By Kebba Jeffang
Mr. Mai Ahmad Fatty, Minister of Interior told reporters yesterday that the issue of enforced disappearance is being handled by the government. “The issue of people’s disappearance is being handled as we have already formed a panel that is working at the level of the Inspector General of Police,” he said.
The minister made these remarks after meeting the UN delegation while responding to questions posed to him regarding complaints of relatives whose loved ones disappeared in the era of the former regime.
He advised the general public to go and report and give the information of their loved ones that are yet to be seen.
“The issue of enforced disappearance is very critical and absolutely essential. We have so many people whose whereabouts are unknown and my ministry with the line agencies will continue to work harder this time that we have a new government to ensure that we not only have a closure but also that there can be responsibility assigned and there can be consequences. So we are also working very closely on that,” he said.
He added that prison condition is another major concern that was discussed with the global body.
He said the UN team is very significant as the object is to help them map out new strategies regarding the police force, border patrols, how they will reinforce their narcotics detection and prevention programmes as well as how they will be dealing with the issues of maintaining law and order, increasing human capacity, stock of the police force, and also national disaster management particularly relating to fire service.
“So there is a general cooperation with the United Nations system with the aim of strengthening national security and also strengthening the capacity and resources of the various lines of agencies that are under the ministry of Interior,” he said.
The interior minister said the UN team was a very powerful one as it comprises personnel on human rights, drugs, governance, political affairs, and economics. He said it was a multi-sectoral team that came down directed by the African Division in United Nations under the supervision of the United Nations’ General Secretary. He said the team is working with the local team on the ground, and they looked at the aspect of the policy but added that he has another opportunity to meet with them at the ministerial level where they will be discussing about the policy details of securing this country and enhancing their preparedness for the security challenges of the 21st century.
However, one issue that stands out of the discussion as the most pressing priority are prisons conditions.
“As you know all the chiefs of services are there including the CDS, Inspector General of Police, Director of Immigration, Prisons etc. Of particular importance to me is the issue of prisons reform as I saw the appalling and deplorable state of the prisons. We intend to shut down these facilities over a period of time and create new correctional facilities. Those in custody are human beings whom you have to prepare for life after prison so that they can continue to contribute meaningfully towards the development of our society,” said Minister Fatty.
The minister said the issue of prisons reform is at the centre of their discussion with the Inter-Agency delegation from United Nations on Wednesday morning. He expressed happiness and optimism as the discussions are going on positively. He assured that he will continue to engage the UN delegation when they come to the ministerial level in terms of policy so that the Gambia will position itself for greatness.
He said as an agency, the Prisons Department is under his ministry and assured that with the support of technical assistants they will soon change the prison condition fundamentally.