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Half of Gambians think ECOMIG should leave— Afrobarometer


At least one million Gambians think that the regional forces who were deployed to the country to uphold the 2016 election results should leave, said survey conducted by Afrobarometer.

Afrobarometer is a nonpartisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance and economic conditions in African countries.

The ECOMIG forces were deployed to the country in 2017 under the code name Operation Restore Democracy.

Their deployment was precipitated by the refusal of the former President Yahya Jammeh to leave power after his election defeat. Jammeh who now leaves in exile in Equatorial Guinea claimed the polls were marred with irregularities and called for fresh votes.

“Gambians are divided as to whether it is time for ECOMIG to leave and for the Gambia Armed Forces and police to take charge of security matters in the country. Half (50%) of all citizens “agree” or “strongly agree” that ECOMIG has served its purpose and should leave, while 44% “disagree” or “strongly disagree” and want ECOMIG’s stay extended,” said Afrobarometer survey.

“The disparity shows that while many Gambians may be regaining confidence in the armed forces and the police, there is still a significant proportion who are reluctant to leave security matters solely to them.”

The regional forces, currently 500 strong, are mainly from Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. Their deployment was initially made on self-sustenance basis, meaning their countries funded their deployment and stay in the country. However, the European Union later took over their funding which expires in August 2019.

Seven rounds of surveys were completed in up to 38 countries between 1999 and 2018 by Afrobarometer. Round 8 surveys in 2019/2020 are planned in at least 35 countries. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.

The Afrobarometer team in the Gambia, led by the Centre for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies (CepRass), interviewed 1,200 adult Gambians in July and August 2018.

A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

“The call for ECOMIG to leave is strongest in the West Coast region (54%), where several disputes between local residents and the Senegalese ECOMIG contingent have been reported. For instance, ECOMIG soldiers have been accused of killing one protester and injuring others in Kanilai, Jammeh’s village (AllAfrica, 2017), as well as harassing and denying residents the right of free movement (Gambia News Today, 2018),” the survey states.

“A preference for an ECOMIG exit is stronger among educated Gambians (57%-59%) than among those with no formal education (38%). Men (52%) and urban dwellers (51%) are slightly more likely than women (48%) and rural residents (47%) to prefer that the regional military forces leave. And young adults (56% of those aged 18-35) are considerably readier for an ECOMIG departure than their elders (41%-43% of those aged 36 years and above) (Figure 9).”

Below are some key findings from the survey:

  • Majorities of Gambians say they trust the Gambia Armed Forces (65%) and police (60%) “somewhat” or “a lot.”
  • Six in 10 (61%) say the Gambia Armed Forces “often” or “always” protect the country from external and internal security threats, and half (50%) say members of the military are respectful to citizens. However, only 37% say the armed forces get the resources they need to be effective.
  • Among citizens who requested police assistance in the previous 12 months, fewer than half say that they found it easy to get the help they needed (44%) and that they received the needed assistance “right away” or “after a short time” (46%). One in five (20%) say they had to pay a bribe or do a favour to get the help they needed.
  • About four in 10 Gambians say they were victims of theft from their house (40%) or felt unsafe walking in their neighbourhood (36%) during the previous year. One in four (25%) feared crime in their home, and one in 14 (7%) were physically attacked.
  • In the past two years, about half or more of Gambians have feared or experienced violence among people in their neighbourhood (53%), during a public protest (49%), or at political events (56%).
  • Gambians are split as to whether ECOMIG should leave and allow the Gambia Armed Forces and Gambia Police Force to take charge of security matters in the country.

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