The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) Lieutenant General Yakuba Drammeh recently returned home from Senegal where he embarked on a 4 – day working visit to his Senegalese Counterpart, Air Force General Birom Diop from 24 – 27 February 2021. The CDS was accompanied by the Commander of The Gambia National Army, Brigadier General Ousman Gomez, the Commander of the Gambia Navy, Commodore Madani Senghore respectively as well as some Principal Staff Officers of GAF.
The visit is at the invitation of the CDS of the Senegalese Armed Forces (SAF) during the meeting of the two Chiefs in June last year at Kerr Ayib border post in Farafenni. It is also in fulfillment of the promise made by General Drammeh to his counterpart at this historic meeting as well as in several phone conversations and engagements during the period under review. At this historic meeting in Farafenni, they agreed to work on strengthening and consolidating on the existing cordial relationship between the two armed forces and countries.
The CDS and delegation were received at the headquarters of the Senegalese Armed Forces (SAF) at camp “Dial Diop” by his counterpart, Air Force General Birom Diop after inspecting a splendid Quarter Guard mounted by members of the Senegalese Armed Forces. The two chiefs later engaged themselves in a tete-a-tete discussion in which they reviewed the security situation in the region, the impact of COVID 19 pandemic as well as other contemporary security challenges facing the world today. The two chiefs later rejoined the rest of the delegation in the Conference Room for a lecture/presentation on the Peace Support Operations of the Senegalese Armed Forces.
During the visit, the CDS was also taken by his host on conducted tours and visits to training institutions and facilities of the SAF such as the Military Academy (ENOA) in Thies and Mount Roland Training Center, 9 km North East of Thies where 50 GAF personnel are currently undergoing Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) training.
At ENOA, the CDS was briefed on the history, curriculum and recruitment process of the academy. Afterwards, he was taken on a conducted tour of the academy’s training facilities. It might interest readers to note that the academy has trained some GAF officers in the 90s to date as well as Cadet officers from other allied countries.
The 50 GAF personnel on APC training in Thies, Senegal are composed of one officer, 19 mechanics, 19 drivers and a mounting/dismounting team of 10 personnel as well as a gunner. These personnel constitute part of the 250 – strong Quick Reaction Force (QRF) Company which was pledged by GAF for deployment into a UN mission. It may be instructive to state that due to the unavailability of a training facility and APCs in The Gambia, the Senegalese Armed Forces, without hesitation, when they were approached by the GAF Command, put at GAF’s disposal their instructors, training facilities as well as equipment and other logistics related items to prepare these 50 personnel at no cost to GAF. Readers would recall that an Advanced Advisory Visit (AAV) was conducted virtually in December 2020 by the UN Department of Peace Operations to gauge the operational readiness and capability of GAF to deploy a QRF in a UN mission to be determined. While briefing the CDS, the Chief Instructor Captain Fallou Tine informed the CDS that the training was going as planned and that the trainees are well-motivated and disciplined. Captain Tine also stated that his instructors are encouraged by the GAF soldiers’ enthusiasm to learn and as a result assured that they would also share their knowledge and experience with the troops.
In another but related development, General Drammeh paid a courtesy call on the Gambia’s High Commission in Dakar where he was received by the Ambassador His Excellency Hadrammeh Sidibeh. During the engagement that ensued which was chaired by the Deputy Head of Mission Dr. Mariam John and attended by staff at the High Commission, the CDS informed the High Commissioner that the purpose of his visit is to enhance the relations between the two countries and Armed Forces. General Drammeh informed the High Commissioner that the apparent lack of a Defence Attaché (DA) at the High Commission has and is greatly hampering coordination between the two Armed Forces. However, he was quick to tell the top diplomat that a senior officer has been identified by GAF to serve as a DA in Dakar stressing that GAF is presently working with the relevant authorities to expedite his deployment.
The CDS also paid courtesy calls on the Minister of the Armed Forces of Senegal, Mr. Sidiki Kaba as well as on the Commander of the Senegalese National Gendarmerie and Director of Military Justice, Lieutenant General Jean Baptiste Tine. In his engagements with General Tine, who is responsible for the protection of the President of the Republic of Senegal, among other things, General Drammeh thanked General Tine for the training that was offered to 300 GAF personnel of the new composite Presidential Guard of The Gambia in 2018 and 2019 at no cost to GAF or the government of The Gambia. General Drammeh further engaged his counterpart on the possibility of follow-on training for the Presidential Guards in the areas of counter terrorism, VIP protection and escort duties, amongst others. In response, General Tine indicated his institution’s readiness and willingness to provide such training once all the modalities are put in place. Accordingly, he advised that a Technical Team from GAF should be dispatched immediately to work on the modalities with the Senegalese side for the conduct of the training.
The visit ended with an exchange of gifts and a renewal on the side of the two defence chiefs to consolidate on the gains registered so far and a commitment towards the maintenance of peace and security within the two countries and the region.