By Kazim Abdul
The Gambia Armed Forces recently received a significant boost in their operational capabilities with the generous donation of military hardware from Turkey. Among the items donated were two Otokar Cobra armored personnel carriers, reflecting Turkey’s commitment to bolstering The Gambia’s defence and peacekeeping efforts.
The handover ceremony took place recently at the Turkish Embassy in Banjul, where various “non-lethal military items” were presented. These items included high-frequency (HF) radios, mine detectors, uniforms, winter jackets, raincoats, combat boots, and more.
Turkey’s ambassador to The Gambia, Tolga Bermek, highlighted the importance of the gesture as a testament to the growing cooperation between Ankara and Banjul, not only in bilateral relations but also in military collaboration. The donation signifies Turkey’s willingness to contribute to The Gambia’s foreign policy objectives and peacekeeping missions.
Lt General Yakuba Drammeh, the chief of defence staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, expressed his gratitude for the donated equipment. He emphasised that the resources would play a vital role in supporting United Nations peace support operations across the globe, underlining the significance of international partnerships in maintaining peace and security.
The relationship between Turkey and The Gambia dates back to 1965, characterised by strong ties both bilaterally and multilaterally, particularly within the UN and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Turkish military officers have been providing training to Gambian soldiers since the 1990s. Between 1991 and 2007, Turkish military trainers trained approximately 7,000 Gambian soldiers.
While the training agreement between the two countries expired in 2007, Gambian troops have continued to receive valuable training in Turkey. Over 500 Gambian soldiers have visited Turkey for training since then, with a notable contingent of 250 Gambian soldiers arriving in Turkey in January 2022 to receive counter-terrorism training.
In 2014, defense cooperation reached new heights when the Gambia Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Turkey signed a bilateral agreement for logistical assistance. Turkey further supported The Gambia with a US$600,000 donation, aimed at aiding The Gambia’s peacekeeping mission in Mali and addressing other logistical challenges.
April 2022 witnessed Turkey’s provision of security equipment, which included shields, gas masks, radios, and various other items, further fortifying The Gambia’s defence capabilities. Past donations from Turkey have included thousands of uniforms, tents, water bottles, and various other essential equipment. In 2019, it was revealed that Turkey had provided US$1.4 million in military assistance to The Gambia, although specific details of the aid were not disclosed.
Notably, The Gambia received two Katmerciler Hizir armoured vehicles from Turkey last year, hinting at a larger contract for an additional 20 vehicles in the future. This ongoing support from Turkey underscores the commitment to strengthening The Gambia’s defence forces and fostering enduring diplomatic ties.