BY AMADOU JALLOW
The government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) has again strengthened The Gambia’s maritime security with the donation of three more boats, meant to enhance operations in this regard.
Handed over to the vice president and chairperson of the National Security Council (NSC) by the Taiwanese ambassador to The Gambia Friday at the Naval headquarters in Banjul, the gesture brought to 10 the number of boats the Asian island nation donated to its West African ally in recent years. The donation of these M2A2 high speed boats formed part of the commitment of the Taiwanese president, His Excellency Ma Ying Jeou to assisting his Gambian counterpart, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh in safely navigating the development of his country.
The boats, namely GN (Gambia Navy) Berre Kuntu, GN Kenyeh Kenyeh Jamango and GN Sanimentereng are fitted with 115 twin horse power out board motors with an endurance of two hours at full throttle and capable of a speed up to 80km per hour.
It would be recalled that in June 2009 Taiwan donated four high speed patrol boats to the government of The Gambia, a gesture President Jammeh described as an “invaluable gesture” that amply demonstrates the strength of the bond of friendship and cooperation between the two.” In her statement, Vice President Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy said within the framework of cooperation between The Gambia and Taiwan, the latter has always maintained an unwavering commitment in accompanying its ally towards meeting her development priorities. While asserting that the handing over of the boats is one of the numerous assistances Taiwan has extended to The Gambia, the VP and Women’s Affairs minister also described their acquisition as apt and timely. The boats, she went on, will enhance The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) in the execution of their constitutional obligations in the maintenance of peace and security, especially in strengthening the marine security. The vice president observed that in recent times, marine security issues have found their ways to the top of regional, sub-regional and global security agenda due to the evolving threats of piracy and other banditry activities. These activities, she lamented, are threats not only on national but global security, with The Gambia being no exception. “As a country, we will continue to ensure that our territorial waters are well protected together with our marine resources and address banditry at sea as well as deter or punish the criminals,” she emphasised.
With regards to the exploitation of The Gambia’s marine resources, VP underscored that the boats will be pivotal in strengthening surveillance, particularly in combating poaching, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities. She pointed out that President Jammeh’s target vision for an uninterrupted prosperity and development of The Gambia is linked to a no compromise strategy in security matters; whether at sea, land or air. Thus, she underscored that the boats will significantly enhance the capacity of The Gambia Navy in service delivery.
The vice president concluded by expressing The Gambia’s profound gratitude and appreciation to Taiwan for all the assistance. The Taiwanese ambassador, His Excellency Samuel Chen, opined that security should be the highest priority for any government to develop and ensure national stability and people’s welfare, saying “no security means no economic development and stability.” Defending the territorial integrity of The Gambia and creating a stable and viable economic environment, according to Ambassador Chen, promotes national development and economic growth. He said although The Gambia has a coastline of 80km and that its maritime does not cover some vast area, yet it is important to hold the middle way ships from Europe to Guinea Gulf and even to the Southern Africa region.
The ambassador emphasised that among the responsibilities of The Gambia Navy is to protect national resources and ensure that ships pass through safely. This, he said, encourages economic growth and stability. Ambassador Chen informed the gathering that in 2009 Taiwan also donated four patrol vessels to assist The Gambia Navy in their efforts to promote maritime security. The donation of another three high-speed boats, he added, is expected to strengthen The Gambia’s naval base and facilitate them to develop more effective ways of providing better service. “We hope this will promote safety, security and freedom of the sea,” he said.
While commending President Jammeh for his dedication to making The Gambia one of the safest and secured countries in the world, Ambassador Chen said Taiwan has also proven to the world that it is a peacemaker. He assured the president that Taiwan will solidly and surely be with him in view of the fact that “he is a peace promoting and trustworthy leader.”
He thanked the chief of Defence Staff of GAF, the directors and staff of GAF as well as the Taiwan military attach√©, Col. Wally Wang, and the four instructors for their efforts.
The commander of The Gambia Navy, Commodore Madani Senghore, said this latest donation by Taiwan is in line with the commander-in-chief’s desire for a well equipped, highly professional and disciplined Armed Force. He acknowledged that Taiwan has continued to render tangible assistance to the government of The Gambia in capacity building, provision of equipment and materials, as well as technical expert support to various institutions and departments.
“The high speed boats arrived at a time when maritime safety and security issues have been propelled to the top of regional security agenda due to the evolving trans-national threats to maritime security,” he opined. He lamented that threats like piracy, narcotic drug trafficking, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; human trafficking and smuggling of goods in the maritime environment continue to affect the security and stability of the sub-region. “Therefore, the need for navies and coastal guards like The Gambia Navy to develop strategies to confront these challenges and mitigate them is vital,” he underscored.
The Navy boss is of the view that these challenges can only be adequately surmounted with proper maritime platforms to venture into the territorial waters, exclusive economic zones and internal water ways to ensure the unhindered passage of cargo vessels and prevent illicit activities by enforcing national laws and regulations in the maritime environment. Commodore Senghore told the gathering that the provision of the boats will at a greater measure enhance Navy’s capacity to respond to security threats in The Gambia’s maritime space and further provide them with the ability to rapidly deploy small units independently to operate in coordination at even a short notice. “The nature and design of the boats will also enable us to conduct search and rescue operations in narrow channels and shallow waters,” he concluded.