The vice president and the minister of Women Affairs, who is also the chairperson of the National Security Council, has reaffirmed the Gambia government's commitment to international peacekeeping missions.
Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy was speaking on behalf of President Jammeh on Friday at the 22nd Square in Banjul during the farewell parade for the15th Gambian Company (GAMCOY 15) about to be deployed to Darfur for a peacekeeping mission.
The contingent, which consists of 208 personnel, - nine officers and 199 other ranks under the command of Lt Col Yahya Drammeh, is set for deployment in the early part of the new year for a period of six months.
VP Njie Saidy noted that this is the fifteenth time The Gambia is deploying troops to Darfur to help restore peace and bring hope to the despondent people of the Sudanese region. She said each time The Gambia sends soldiers out on international mission, she thinks of the peace and tranquility being enjoyed in this small but beautiful country.
She opined that there can never be any meaningful development without peace. "Though The Gambia is at peace, my government will not relent in the search for eternal peace in the southern Senegalese region of the Casamance and neighboring Guinea Bissau and the rest of Africa," she assured.
She continued: "The reason for our involvement in the peace negotiation to this effect, as the old African adage says 'when your neighbour's house is on fire, you should help to put it out because the next one could be yours."
VP Njie Saidy lamented that since independence, Africans have spent so many years and valuable resources fighting among themselves, rather than concentrate on developing their economies and human resources. "My government will continue to participate in international peacekeeping missions across the globe, as per our international obligation, so as to bring peace and harmony to those needy people of the world, particularly on our beloved continent Africa," she assured.
She said the custodians of peace are the armed forces, and that is why the government is doing everything possible to make sure the welfare of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) is provided for, to make them the best in Africa. She urged the Gamcoy 15 personnel to maintain the moral ethics of the profession, respect the chain of command and be loyal at all times while warning that indiscipline and unruly behaviour will not be tolerated.
For his part, Lt. General Ousman Bargie, the chief of Defence Staff(CDS) of GAF, said that the contingent has been prepared in the past three months with Support Operation Training at the GAF Training School in collaboration with the Royal Gibraltar Regiment of the British Army. He said they are expected to be professionals when dealing with the challenges in the mission.
The CDS explained that their roles will include monitoring and observing compliance with all the United Nations and African Union Humanitarian efforts, ceasefire agreements and all other such agreements and or protocols; manning the signal centre of UNAMID Force Headquarters, to assist in the process of confidence building; to contribute to a secure environment for the delivery of material relief, return of internally displaced persons and refugees and protect UNAMID personnel.
He further stated that they are also to provide security for visiting VIPs, NGOs, and other humanitarian organisations upon request; assist in the resettlement of Internally Displaced People and Refugees. "Whilst in this regard, you are required to win the hearts and minds of the locals, give hope to the hopeless and restore confidence and human dignity in the communities," he added.
Lt. Gen. Bargie told the soldiers that their role is a noble one and urged them to make it a task to contribute meaningfully to the lives of the people of Darfur. "But to achieve this, you must work hard to win the hearts and minds of the civilian population. This is the fifteenth Gambian contingent to be deployed to Darfur since the beginning of the mission in 2005. Since then, the performances of the Gambian contingents have been exemplary," he said.
He urged them to emulate the good examples of their predecessors who have performed exceptionally well throughout their tour of duty. "You are to be part of the solution to the trouble but not the problem. So, you are expected to do everything possible within your limits not only to maintain the peace but to build that peace as well. Nobody will be spared for any malignant conduct. Be mindful of issues of sexual misconduct that can breach the UNAMID code of conduct and tarnish the good image of The Gambia. Any culprit of scandalous conduct will be dealt with seriously on return," he concluded.