By Omar Bah
The Chief of Staff of the Ecowas Standby Force, Brigadier General Matarr Diop, has advised Ecomig troops deployed in Banjul to respect the protection of civilians at all times.
Addressing a training for his troops on contemporary peacekeeping and ever-increasing interstates character of conflicts, General Diop said the protection of civilians, rule of law as well as humanitarian support among others must not be compromised.
“Today, nothing happens in the battlefield that can be hidden – oftentimes we have seen the international community raising alarms of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the recent conflicts … namely, the recent Ukraine war and such a thing can happen here in your deployment because you are a peace support operation. So, civilians must be protected at all times and remember that no perpetrators of human rights violations will go scot-free and as such there is a need to be educated on the law of armed conflicts to avoid falling a victim,” General Diop said.
Gen Diop further said the workshop will provide the avenue for participants to have a basic knowledge on international humanitarian law and to be guided by it at all times.
He added that the Red Cross has contributed significantly around the world to support people at risk and there are no peace support missions where they are not present.
“I also have to highlight that since 2016 the Red Cross has been collaborating with the Ecowas Standby Force in conducting regional workshops for member states around armed conflicts,” he said.
He urged the participants to take the training very seriously and apply it when the need arises.
Gen Diop said a similar training was conducted for the Ecomig troops in Guinea Bissau.
The Ecomig Force Commander Cheikh Omar Tamba commended the Ecowas and Red Cross for supporting the training and assured them of his troops commitment to ensure the peace and stability of the country.
The president of the Gambia Red Cross Society, Jato Sillah said reflecting on the scale of escalation of armed conflicts across the globe, the training is timely and highly relevant.
“The respect t for rules of war during armed conflict is an imperative and I strongly believe that a regional approach to the enforcement of humanitarian law is the best way forward to realise this goal,” he said.
Mr Sillah reminded the Ecomig troops that the Red Cross is a neutral and independent humanitarian organisation formally mandated by State parties to the Geneva Conventions (GC) among others with the responsibility to monitor the application of international humanitarian law. Mr Sillah advised against the unauthorised use of the organisation’s Emblem.
“We encourage and challenge all present here to support us in this plight. We have a long-standing procedure for dealing with such matters agreed to, by the Constitution of The Gambia,” Sillah said. He said the Red Cross Society has developed a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the government.
The training was organised by the Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the Ecowas Commission in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).