Sep 4, 2008, 6:03 AM
The vice president made this statement at a farewell parade of the 18th contingent of the Gambia armed forces, GAF, that comprised 214 soldiers at a ceremony held at July 22nd Square in Banjul, attended by relatives and friends of the soldiers.
“It is our government’s policy and challenge to honour United Nations and African Union mandates for peacekeeping forces,” VP Njie-Saidy said.
“This gesture has been fulfilled throughout and our soldiers have performed diligently in all the services required of them.
“As we deal with modern trends of conflict and terrorism and, of course, wars we have to always pray that our forces do not go into harm’s way nor do they encounter bitter conflicts that will make them perish. This is why peacekeeping is always important because it tries to prevent bloodshed and irrational traits of war, revenge and conflict.”
The vice president added that the contingent’s deployment to Darfur should be seen in the context of a noble challenge.
“It is a challenge to pursue humanitarian affairs in a war-torn area, where displaced people are just beginning to live normal lives after traumatic experiences associated with war and conflict,” she added.
“It is certain that the reason for the new UN General Assembly Resolution 67/261 rotational cycle for the contingent from six months to one year is to effectively deal with the problems of maintaining peace, and ensuring a solid base for continuity and positive results for the displaced people.”
This, the vice president noted, would also guarantee effective ceasefire monitoring and rehabilitation of displaced and vulnerable groups.
“Monitoring compliance with ceasefire, assisting in the process of confidence building, protecting mission personal and properties, guaranteeing security for NGO, visiting VIPs, humanitarian organizations as well as helping the displaced persons to deal with the wounds of conflict are among the major roles of GAMCOY 18,” she stated.
She urged the contingents to be goodwill ambassadors of The Gambia in the global forum of conflict resolution, “which is also part of their role.”
Lt. General Ousman Bargie, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), in his remarks on the occasion said the one year mission is a humanitarian and peace support operation in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.
The contingent, led by Lt. Colonel James Jatta, consists of 208 soldiers including 14 officers, 194 of other ranks and 7 females.
“The contingent underwent 3-month Peace Support Operation Training at the Gambia Armed Forces Training School,” CDS Bargie said, adding: “They are trained by our instructors with assistance from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment under the auspices of British Army Training Team.
“It was 11 years ago, in December 2004 precisely, when we gathered to bid farewell to the first Gambian contingent to Darfur and we are still continuing to send our troops.
“These deployments of GAF are a clear demonstration of the Gambia government’s willingness and commitment to nurture and maintain peace not only in The Gambia, but also the world over.”
He said further that the primary role for any armed force is to defend the country’s territorial integrity. However, he noted, this traditional role is rapidly changing in the face of an unpredictable and volatile global security situation.
“This is why the armed forces are being called upon to either participate in peace-building, peacekeeping or peace enforcement,” he said.
CDS Bargie also called on the contingent to be “committed, respectful and professional” and to continue portraying the good name of the Gambia armed forces.
“Respect the religion, tradition and values of the Darfur community,” he added.