By Gambian Correspondent – President Yayha Jammeh has opined that peace is a critical component to any meaningful socio-economic development, stressing that without peace, none of these can be attained.
The Gambian leader was speaking yesterday in a statement delivered on his behalf by the Vice President and Minister for Women Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, at the opening ceremony for the 10-day African Endeavour Test Exercise 2011 held at the July 22nd Square in Banjul.
An American government initiative in partnership with the African Union, African Endeavour is aimed at developing command, control and communication tactics, techniques and procedures.
The exercise is, among others, meant to give the participating nations the opportunity to test their military communication equipment with a view to harmonizing their interoperability for future support of the Africa Standby Force Operations.
Organized by the United States African Command widely known as ‘AFRICOM’, and the African Endeavour (AE), the exercise also seeks to develop command, control, communication tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be used by the African Union in support of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions.
Addressing military officers from more than 35 African countries, five international organizations and four European nations, President Jammeh said peace is critical to development; and without peace there is nothing, and that it is a precondition for development. “We have to notch it all,” he added.
According to President Jammeh, the African Endeavour programme is one of the numerous initiatives in which the United States is working in partnership with Africa through the African Union to support peace and security in the continent.
“Meeting the challenge of today’s threats means getting serious about prevention; the consequences of allowing latent threats to become manifest, or of allowing existing threats to spread are simply too severe and must be endorsed,” he said.
He underscored the significance of communication in all military operations, which he said cannot be overemphasized.
This reality, he went on, also makes the African Endeavor programme series very important in preparing the operational readiness of African armed forces as far as communication is concerned.
The Gambian leader further stated that the knowledge and experience gathered during the African Endeavour planning conferences and exercises will, undoubtedly, have guided participating nations in making the right plans in the field of communications.
He commended the US Government, US Department of Defence and the United States Africa Command for the laudable initiatives, efforts and funding of the entire African Endeavour programme.
Pamela Ann White, US ambassador to The Gambia, in her statement, told the gathering that the military in any country must ensure peace.
“Military is all about peace; we know that negotiation is better than confrontation; we know peace is better than war,” she said.
Ambassador White assured the Gambia Armed Forces of the US government’s commitment in helping the Gambian military, noting that The Gambia is a shining example of why the military exists, is democratic, stable and peaceful, a smiling face, and beautiful beaches, which are all beautiful things about The Gambia.
Also speaking at the gathering was Lt. General Masanneh Kinteh, chief of defence staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, who underscored the significance of the exercise, which he said cannot be overemphasized as its benefits are multi-faceted and cross-cutting.
CDS Kinteh added that in addition to its main objective of attaining interoperability and information exchange among nations via communication networks, the exercise is bringing the personnel of different countries together to learn from and share with each other diverse experiences.
Brigadier General Roberts Ferrell, AFRICOM C4 Systems Director, described the exercise as the largest to date, adding that for the first time, the exercise will take place in three sites – here in The Gambia, ECOWAS in Abuja, Nigeria, and at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Brig. Gen. Ferrell noted that this year’s exercise will include a disaster relief scenario provided by the AU.
He said the inclusion of the AU and a regional headquarters within the context of that scenario will achieve an unprecedented level of communications in response to a realistic situation.
According to him, the role of the US Africa Command is to strengthen the partnerships between the US military and the militaries of African nations.