Following an invitation from the Turkish government, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gambia Armed Forces Lt Gen Masanneh N Kinteh accompanied by a high powered delegation from both the Defence Headquarters and Ministry of Defence attended the 13th International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF) in the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul, Republic of Turkey from 9th to 12th May 2017. The biennial event which is hosted in every odd year since 1993 brings together high level government and military delegates from across the globe providing a forum to foster friendship and cooperation between the Republic of Turkey and its allies.

The IDEF is organized under the auspices of the Presidency of The Republic of Turkey and the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation (TAFF). The main objective of this event is to promote international defence cooperation between the Turkish Republic and its allies by exhibiting cutting edge and state-of-the-art equipment produced in the fields of Defence, Security, Maritime, Aviation and Aerospace. IDEF 2017 provided a platform for the promotion of international defence cooperation whereby delegates would be given a unique opportunity to follow up technological developments in any sector of their interest by means of official negotiations and signing of contracts with the participating company representatives. The hosting of this great event in Istanbul, a city rich in history, culture, trade and industry, standing at the crossroads between Europe and Asia would not but add significant value to the objectives of this event.

The relationship between Turkey and The Gambia dates back to the early 90s, with the advent of the Tactical Support Group (TSG) which later evolved into the Turkish Gendarmerie Training Team. Turkey has always been by our side over the years and is the main provider of training and logistics. Quite a significant number of GAF personnel have undergone training in Turkey. The event was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Turkey Mr Benali Yildi
rim, and graced by the Minister for National Defence Mr Fikri Isik and the Undersecretary for Defence Industries Prof Dr Ismail Demir. This year’s Chief Guest of Honour was the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, HE Ernest Bai Koromah. In his keynote address Prime Minister Yildirim echoed the importance of the IDEF by highlighting the gains Turkey registered in the area of defence.
He noted with pride that Turkey’s defence import had dropped to a drastic half, standing currently at just 40% while it stood at 80% 15 years ago. Through the use of research technology, Turkey has been able to realize an upsurge in her economic ranking at 17th in the world and 6th in Europe.
Turkey has definitely reached a level where her armed forces can be compared to the finest in the West with over 460 defence projects since the advent of the IDEF and a budget of TL123Bn. With the establishment of a National Defence University, launching of the Gurkuk satellite and preparations being at an advanced stage for the establishment of a space agency, Turkey has established the foothold to become a force to be reckoned with in the area of defence and security.
Turkey is not only striving hard to develop her combat capability but equally that of her allies especially the less developed countries of which The Gambia is no exception. Prime Minister Yildirim further noted the significance of coming up with IDEF considering the changing security needs that followed the end of the Cold War. He highlighted the strategic location of Turkey, linking the Middle East which made it prone to violent extremists to Europe. He underscored Turkish support for religious freedom and contributions to the support of refugees from Iraq and Syria as well as the need to protect them and others.
Asserting Turkish determination to end terrorism, Prime Minister Yildirim pointed out that Turkey has never supported a terrorist organization and will continue to fight terrorism. He therefore, called on the International community to stop the double standard in the fight against terrorism and avoid associating it with Islam.
On a political note, Prime Minister Yildirim applauded the Presidential system of government as a necessity for a stronger Turkey as he opined that it will curb political instability in Turkey.
He further reassured the delegates and participants that Turkey will make sure peace and stability reigns within and outside Turkey. He concluded by wishing all a successful IDEF 2017 and extended special thanks to the President of Sierra Leone and various high level delegates.

The CDS also took the opportunity to convey the greetings of His Excellency, President of the Republic of the Gambia, Mr. Adama Barrow and that of the entire Gambia. The CDS dilated on the existing cordial relationship between the Republic of The Gambia and the Republic of Turkey highlighting that the new democratic Gambia will create a conducive atmosphere for the relationship to grow from strength to strength.
He also informed Prof Demir that The Gambia remains to be peaceful despite the political impasse that the country was faced with between December 2016 and January 2017.
Gen Kinteh seized the opportunity to avail Prof Demir of the logistic needs of GAF in the area of training and peacekeeping. Noting the economic benefits as well as the potential of peacekeeping in building the professional capacity of troops, the CDS highlighted logistic support for peacekeeping operations as his priority. Any help to enable GAF increase its peacekeeping capacity will equally aid the process of current reforms.
Prof Demir on his part, thanked the Gambian delegation for calling on him, and assured his best support to The Gambia in the like of other African countries. He recommended that a request listing the required Equipment for the Gambia Armed Forces identified from specific companies visited at the exhibition be sent for his consideration. While assuring the delegation of the Turkish Government’s readiness to support training programs which provide room to accommodate preparation classes, he shared the Turkish Military Training School’s experience in reforms it underwent. He concluded by thanking the Gambia Government for honouring the invitation. Thereafter, the delegation immediately set out to the Exhibition where the CDS identified potential suppliers and submitted the required list of equipments of the Gambia Armed Forces for the consideration of the Undersecretary.

Meeting with Gambian Military Students in Turkey

Another important engagement was the meeting with Gambian military students currently studying in Istanbul. The students called on the CDS to congratulate him on his appointment and seized the opportunity to get advice from him. The facilitator of the meeting, Deputy Ambassador Brig Gen (Rtd) Serign Modou Njie, informed the CDS that the Embassy has been working hand-in-glove with the students to ensure a conducive learning environment for them.
On their part, the students highlighted the need for preparatory classes for Turkish language to be conducted for future students prior to sending them to Turkey.
The CDS on his part, expressed gratitude for the call as it gave him an opportunity to extend warm greeting of His Excellency, Adama Barrow . He took time to enlighten the students on the roles of the military in a democracy. He advised to them to be ready to take their roles as soldiers subservient to civil authority and to conduct themselves in accordance with the core values of the military profession. He informed them of plans to transform the Army in accordance with the country’s needs and that training in this regard is a key priority. He also intimated them on plans to increase GAF’s participation in peacekeeping with plans to deploy at least three Battalions. Responding to their challenges, the CDS informed them of ongoing training programs which provide room to accommodate preparatory classes. In conclusion, the CDS thanked the students for the good initiative of calling on him and assured them of his support all the time. 

Meeting with Private Entrepreneurs

Key among the companies include MKE Silah Fabrikasi, Universal Machinery Group, the renowned military ware producer YDS, OZTIRY AKILER, ASELSAN, ROCKETSAN just to name a few. These are companies specialized in the production of weaponry, uniforms, boots, other sophisticated gadgets such as radars and thermal imagery.
This would mark the beginning of GAF’s transformation process bearing in mind the CDS’s ardent desire to expand the peacekeeping capability of the GAF in the nearest future. The trip by the CDS did not only underscore the importance of Turkey as a bilateral partner in development but it also served as a stepping stone for the CDS’s quest to upgrade the GAF.

Author: Capt Abdoulie Jobe