By Omar Faye and Yusef Taylor
The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) is set to upgrade its weapons to a tune of $1.16 million United States Dollars (equivalent to over D59 million) and train Gambian soldiers to be deployed on UN Peace Keeping missions. Up to 250 security officers including men and women of the GAF’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF-1) are expected to benefit from the training provided by the British Peace Support Team (BPST), scheduled to conclude in November 2021.
Lieutenant Colonel M.O. Cham told members of the media that the GAF is currently upgrading the Army’s personnel and equipment in anticipation of deployment to future UN Peace Keeping missions. Gainako understands that for the Army to qualify for UN Peace Keeping missions the Gambia needs to upgrade its military equipment and personnel. This was confirmed by a statement from Lieutenant Cham.
It can be recalled that the Ministry of Finance Tabled a Supplementary Appropriation Bill at the National Assembly which approved an allocation of D59,375,744 to the Ministry of Defence for Military Equipment. The details on the table submitted to Parliament notes that the expenditure is for “Peace Keeping Equipment ($1.16 million) for the Army”.
“When the Chief of Defense Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces pledge to deploy Gambian QFR Company to the United Nations, we had no idea what the magnitude of the task would be. After the pledge, we were asked that in order to make good, our pledge must complement our efforts to acquisition what we call the ‘critical enablers’, meaning we have to buy armed personnel carriers and required equipment and logistics in order to sustain a Quick Reaction Force in a UN Peacekeeping Mission. It has not been easy but am happy to report that as we speak, we have finalised all the procurement arrangements with a company and hopefully, the equipment that was requested by the UN will be coming to the shores of the country beginning December, January 2022” he said.
Lt. Cham stresses that in order to maintain world peace, in a world that has continued to see internal and external security threats, men must be ready to fight to keep that peace.
“In the international system that we are in, of cause there’s a rule-based international system but most of the time, the pursuit of national interest is so intense that at the end of the day, various actors, decide to set justice and equity and go by what is convenient”.
The training is aim at developing the capabilities of the UN QRF-1 GAF company to the UN mission. Media personnel present at the launch of the training were informed that the training will focus on explosive hazard awareness, support weapons training, snipers, mortar combat, engineering and anti-tank, team medic, fire integration, intelligence and surveillance reconnaissance integration among others.
“It’s important that any army keeps getting operational experience so they can keep evolving and improving. And that’s why the United Nations is very keen to partner with the GAF to improve the operational effectiveness of the UN and more base international order to fight hard to maintain peace, that’s why we are delighted to be partnering with you. You’ll be the first batch back into operation” said British Defense Advisor to GAF, Lieutenant Colonel C Cooper.
Operations Officer for the Quick Reaction Force (QRF 1), Captain JH Jatta stressed that the training is meant to assess and identify the skills gaps of the QRF-1 with the aim of addressing those gaps to better prepare, equip and build capacity and skill of the company.
“Effective and realistic training is the cornerstone of operational success. Through training, leaders, soldiers and units achieve the tactical and technical competence that builds confidence and agility. These characteristics will allow the QRF-1 to deploy and conduct successful operations across the spectrum of conflict in any UN Peacekeeping Mission”.
According to the Commandant of the Gambia Armed Forces Training School, Major General A Jobe, this training culminated in a GAF virtual advisory meeting held sometime with the UN as part of procedures, following a pledge made by the GAF High Command to deploy a Quick Reaction Force.
“In November 2020, the Gambia Armed Forces conducted a virtual advisory meeting with the United Nations, as part of the procedure, following a pledge made by the High Command to deploy a quick reaction force into one of the United Nation’s peace support operations mission. Capability gaps were identified by the GAF which our colleagues, Lt Col Charles Cooper, and the British Operation Team Support in Kenya after necessary consultation were able to facilitate the delivery of necessary training to Quick Reaction Force”.