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US Coast Guard trains Gambia Navy

Apr 21, 2010, 11:12 AM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

In a bid to address the menace of drug trafficking in the African region, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) International Training Division on Monday started conducting a training course in Banjul, which is being attended by at least 24 personnel of the Gambia Navy.

The course was initiated as part of the US government's support to enhance maritime security and counter-narcotics measures in the region.

The five-day training course will cover boarding preparation and procedures, stopping incorporate vessels, conduct of high risk search techniques, detection of hidden illicit items and identification.

Speaking at the formal opening of the course, the United States' head of mission to the Gambia, Ambassador Barry L. Wells, said that the US is committed to helping The Gambia make security improvements that will enhance its ability to combat narcotics trafficking and illicit activities surrounding it.

According to the US diplomat, The Gambia government had expressed the desire to build and bolster its institutions to advance maritime safety and security, and to participate in U.S. bilateral and regional partnerships, to counter transnational threats.

Noting that The Gambia has demonstrated the political will to stop narcotics trafficking in the region, the US Ambassador said President Yahya Jammeh has been very vocal and adamant about "a zero-tolerance" for narcotics trafficking, and has vowed never to allow The Gambia to become a safe haven for drug traffickers.

"Through the support of the U.S Africa Command's Counter Narcotics and Law Enforcement Assistance Division, this basic boarding officer course conducted by the United States Coast Guard will help support The Gambia to build competencies, and capabilities in addressing the maritime challenges surrounding narcotics trafficking," he said.

Ambassador Wells revealed that the USCG is a critical component of the US defence and military fleet.

"They possessed a highly specialised set of skills that ensures we remain at a state of readiness to protect our nation.  Our national defence capabilities are essential to military operations in peacetime, crisis and war," he stated, adding that the USCG has taken on great challenges to protect our nation.

"The United States is proud to begin this relationship of collaboration and support in building the skills essential to protecting the sea." 

"This week you will learn some of the best defence techniques in the world, and we certainly hope that it will bring us closer to eradicating security threats in our seas," the chief US diplomat in Banjul declared.

Brigadier General Sering Modou Njie, the Chief of Army Staff, also spoke at the ceremony, and noted that the training course is quite relevant and important to the Gambia Navy's drive to enhance its human resources capacity in order to fulfil its constitutional mandate as the maritime arm of the Gambia Armed Forces.

Brig. Gen. Sering Modou Njie noted that some of the major roles of the navy include but not limited to the protection of life and property at sea, anti-toxic waste dumping in The Gambia's territorial waters, prevention of smuggling of illicit substances, such as drugs and illegal items, prevention of poaching, and illegal human trafficking.

The Chief of Army Staff said that the Gambia Navy over the period has continued to grow in size, in terms of personnel and platoons. Thus, the need to enhance their techniques and skill cannot be over-emphasized, he said.

The army chief urged the participants to explore what he called the rare opportunity, while commending the US Embassy in Banjul for the continuous support, especially in the area of logistics and training to the Navy and the Gambia Armed Forces.