Oct 19, 2009, 4:32 AM
President Yahya Jammeh on Friday bade farewell to 196 soldiers of the Gambia Armed Forces set for a peacekeeping mission in the Sudanese region of Darfur, at a ceremony held at the July 22nd Square in Banjul.
The contingent, including 10 female soldiers, is the 14th batch of peacekeepers from The Gambia to be deployed to Darfur, since the beginning of the mission in 2005.
Under the command of Lt. Col Dembo Jarju, the officers will be in the troubled region of Darfur for a considerable length of time of at least six months.
Addressing the officers at the farewell parade, President Jammeh said the demand for Gambian peacekeepers today is more than what the country can supply, stressing that his government will do its best to make sure that not only Gambian troops are sent, but also that they are well-equipped, despite limited resources.
Reminding the officers that his government will not tolerate any action that is going to tarnish the good image of The Gambia, Jammeh said it took the country 14 years to build this image and anyone that seeks to spoil it will be making a great mistake.
“You are going not as tribes, Muslims or Christians; you are going to Darfur as Gambians and whatever you want to do there ask yourself, is it right in the first place?.
“If you cannot find an honorable answer as to why you should do it, then don’t do it. We will not forgive anybody if you get involved in things like sexual harassment, drug trafficking, or rape in whatever form whether against civilians or within the armed forces,” he told the soldiers.
According to President Jammeh, peacekeeping missions cannot be taken for granted, noting that officers must be prepared at all times.
“Some of you only train when you are about to be deployed, and when you come back you forget about the training; this is a general message to all members of the armed forces, especially the females. As soldiers, whether you are going to deploy or not, you must be fit at all times for any eventuality,” Jammeh advised them.
The Gambian leader went on to thank the government of Turkey, whose military agreement and cooperation with the Gambia enabled the country to qualify for peacekeeping operations around the world.
“If it were not for Turkey, you will not be able to go to Darfur today,” Jammeh said, while also commending the governments of USA, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana and the Britain for their tireless support to the country’s armed forces.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Major General Ousman Badjie, deputy chief of defence staff, who reminded the soldiers that there role is a noble one.
According to him, Darfur is one of the most difficult missions in terms of its complexity, with the independence of South Sudan further complicating matters.
“Humanitarian aid agencies and peacekeepers are under daily threat because of rampant insecurity throughout the region,” he said, adding that the situation remains volatile, complex and tense and, therefore, presents significant challenges to peacekeepers.
“You are going as a team, and are expected to serve collectively as a team. Be your brother’s and sister’s keeper and always listen to and consult with each other in your day to day pursuits, missions and other commitments,” Badjie advised the soldiers.