Organisational Structure of the GAF
He said the GAF which consist of the Army, the Navy, the National Guards and the Air Force was established by the 1997 Constitution (as amended).
“However, the Constitution merely gave legal backing to the GAF, which is an already existing institution. This legal backing is a necessary corollary to the continuous and cautious exercise of its defined mandates and other assigned roles,” PRO Sanyang specified.
He said the organization of the GAF is based on the premise that it should possess high capabilities and the right force to adequately respond to emerging threats to national security as and when necessary as well as diligently responding to other national security commitments.
In addition, he said the GAF should be able to effectively participate in ECOWAS sponsored operations and by extension the AU and UN. The GAF’s traditional and other roles are justifiably articulated in the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia (as amended) which serves as a guide in justifying its existence.
The History of the GAF
PRO Sanyang said the history of the GAF dates as far back as 1901 when the British Colonial Government formed the Gambia Company. He added that the duties of the Gambia Coy included among others to protect the interest of the British Government and the lives and properties of its citizens in The Gambia at that time. However, during the First and Second World Wars, the Company fought in various theatres as part of the Royal West African Frontier Force.
He explained that after the Second World War, the Gambia Company was raised to a Regiment and in 1958 its strength was again reduced to a Company and renamed the Gambia Auxiliary Force commanded by a British Police Superintendent. In 1961, the name of the Force was again changed to the Gambia Field Force. The roles of the Field Force according to PRO Sanyang were restricted to internal security functions such as riot control and prevention. “The Field Force was disbanded following the 1981 rebellion” adding that that was followed by the signing of the Sene-Gambian Confederation, which in turn gave rise to the formation of a Confederal Army in the Gambia, commanded by a Senegalese Officer.
The army Major detailed that in 1982, an Act of parliament was passed for the re-establishment of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) to be made up of the Gambia Army, Navy, Air Force and Gendarmerie. However, The Gambia National Gendarmerie was the first to be formed in 1983.
He said that was followed suit by the re-establishment of the Gambia National Army (GNA) in 1984. “The Senegalese Armed Forces played a crucial role in the formation of the Gendarmerie while the British Army Training Team was instrumental in the establishment of the new GNA.”
He detailed that in 1992, a Nigerian Army Training Team and Assistance Group (NATAG) was deployed in The Gambia through a bilateral agreement to help in the restructuring and reorganization of the GNA and the NATAG withdrew after the 1994 Military takeover. “Following the military takeover, the Gambia National Gendarmerie was disbanded and its members amalgamated into the GNA and the Gambia Police Force respectively. The GNA then stood as the only national defense force at the time.”
He expounded that in 1996, a military decree was promulgated by the Commander-In-Chief establishing the Gambia Navy, which before then was an arm of the GNA called the Marine Unit. “By the same decree, the National Guard (GNG) was also established as an autonomous formation within the GAF and granted a wide range of functions and roles including limited police duties.
He said the GAF is now composed of the Army, Navy and the National Guards under the command of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Lt Gen Masanneh N Kinteh adding that a fourth Service the Air Force of the Gambia is in its formative stage.
The army officer told the press that every nation in the history of humanity had different needs for a military.
PRO Sanyang said the principal functions of the GAF are to– preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of The Gambia against external aggression; to aid the civil authorities, at their request, in emergencies and in case of natural disasters; to engage at the request of the civil authorities in productive activities, such as agriculture, engineering, health and education for the development of The Gambia.