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The Gambia Armed Forces

The main aims of the armed forces as written in the constitution are to defend and preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of The Gambia, to aid civil authorities during emergencies and national disasters; to engage in productive activities such as agriculture, engineering, health and education for the development of The Gambia. The army is variously estimated to number around 900 to 1,900 soldiers, consisting of infantry battalions, the national guard, and the navy, who are all under the authority of the Department of State for Defence (a ministerial portfolio held by President Jammeh).The President continued to shuffle government leaders capriciously, reducing the likelihood of any single actor gaining too much political power.

Compared to the rest of West Africa, The Gambia has generally benefited from a stable political climate since independence in 1965. A bloody coup attempt in 1981 was put down by the Senegalese army after the former President invoked a mutual defense agreement between the two countries. The country's only successful coup dtat occurred in July 1994 and was accompanied by minimal violence.

The development of The Gambia Armed Forces and the expansion of its primary and principal functions came about as a result of the 1994 change of government. The 1997 Constitution gave The Gambia Armed Forces additional mandates in the light of the changing phenomena in the traditional roles of the Armed Forces. These additional mandates have allowed the expansion of the role of The Gambia Armed Forces such as Rescue Missions, Emergency and Disaster Operations, and International Peacekeeping and Peace Enforcement Missions as well as agricultural participation. The Gambia Armed Forces as part of its new and additional roles has been actively participating in the fight against HIV.

The small Gambia National Army is comprised of two infantry battalions, one engineering squadron and the Presidential Guard company. In April 2008 the government passed the Gambia Armed Forces Bill 2008 which resulted in the establishment of the Republican National Guard, which comprises the State Guard, Special Forces and Guards Battalion, with a total National Guard strength variously estimated at from 700 to 1,000 personnel.

Members of the Gambian military participated in ECOMOG, the West African force deployed during the Liberian civil war beginning in 1990. Gambian forces have subsequently participated in several other peacekeeping operations, including, inter alia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Timor-Leste, and Darfur. The Gambia contributed 150 troops to Liberia in 2003 as part of the ECOMIL contingent. In 2004, The Gambia contributed a 196-man contingent to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur, Sudan. As of August 2010, The Gambia was contributing 2,156 peacekeepers to seven UN missions (including UNAMID in Darfur, UNMIT in Timor-Leste, UNMIS in Sudan, UNMIL in Liberia, UNOCI in Cote dIvoire, and MINURCAT in Central African Republic).

Given the Gambian army's small (1,000-strong) size, in staffing its peacekeeping contingents, the government did not confine itself to the army, but also drew from other elements in the armed forces, including the 1,000-strong National Guard. There are barracks at Fajara, Yundun, Kudang, and Farafenni. There are likely to be more posts and installations.

Police checkpoints, particularly in Banjul and surrounding cities, are frequent, with police officials checking primarily for identification, vehicle registration and insurance. Military checkpoints occur at all regional borders, Denton Bridge heading into Banjul, entry to the Senegambia strip, and can pop up unannounced when the president is travelling or in response to a perceived national security threat. Police checkpoints occur nightly and intermittently during the day. The Gambian military has several checkpoints at regional borders and sometimes search vehicles looking for contraband or weapons. Travelers may be required to exit the vehicle and permit a search of the vehicle and its contents.

Presidential motorcades generally are accompanied by military personnel along the intended driving route. Drivers on the road are expected to pull off of the road quickly and entirely in advance of the motorcades arrival. Failure to do so may result in the vehicle being forced off the road and the driver arrested. Do not take video or photos of the passing motorcade.

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Page last modified: 02-12-2016 15:07:51 ZULU