President Jammeh has disclosed that a battalion will be created within the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) by 2009, tasked with the duty of engaging in agricultural productivity to help provide food for the entire military. The president said any excess from their harvest would be sold to generate revenue.
The Gambian leader made this revelation in an interview with journalists at the Banjul International Airport, on Friday evening, upon his return from a four-day working visit to the sister Republic of Guinea Bissau.
Commenting on the significance of food self-sufficiency, President Jammeh made reference to the initiative undertaken by the Gambia Prisons Department, which maintains farms at the island of Janjanbureh, Central River Region. He said that this initiative is also common in the security services of other countries around the world, expressing optimism that The Gambia would follow soon.
According to him, there is a need for Gambians and Africans to eat what they produce for better health and prevent themselves against ailments that are alien to “our societies”. This, he went on, can only happen if Africans become masters of their own destiny and work hard to become self-sufficient in food production.
To President Jammeh, what the continent needs now is resources to boost agriculture, rather than conferences whose resolutions are hardly implemented. He said that the land is already in mass for such activity.
President Jammeh cited Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast and Liberia as countries that have the potentials to produce enough rice for Africa and Asia, because of their vast amount of land, adequate rainfall and fresh water. President Jammeh told journalists that Guinea Conakry and Sierra Leone are supplying rice seeds to major rice importing countries, arguing that “if they can do that, then they can produce rice to feed the people. Africa needs attitudinal change,” he urged.
Engagements in Bissau
According to the president, the Bissau visit took them to various parts of the country and enabled him and the delegation the opportunity to strengthen the bilateral agreement between the two states in the areas of energy, fisheries, trade and agriculture.
“We have had a long standing, comprehensive technical cooperation agreement; it is just that it has been dormant for the past seven years. So the visit revived and discussed on ways of strengthening it”.
He said that various technical committees have gone ahead of them to discuss on areas of immediate concerns to both countries in the aforementioned sectors.
According to President Jammeh, Guinea Bissau has a lot of potentials to develop faster than The Gambia, saying that they only needed the right atmosphere. The country, he went on, is 10 times richer than The Gambia in terms of natural resources and land mass.
The president blamed “deep divisions” on tribal lines and instability as the root causes of the problems in Guinea Bissau.
To the Gambian leader, the best way forward for Bissau Guineans is to reconcile; a point he buttressed to them in no uncertain term.
The president said that the two countries had a comprehensive security agreement, thus making it a “no-go-area” for dissidents and criminals from The Gambia. He added that there is an ECOWAS protocol that prohibits countries within the member sates from harbouring dissidents but, according to him, this has been violated by one or two countries in the sub-region.
“For Guinea Bissau, we have no concern with them. Criminals from The Gambia know where to go to; certainly not Guinea Bissau. There are countries that are very sincere with what they say and there are countries, which what they say and what they do are two different things. These are the safe heavens for dissidents and criminals,” President Jammeh observed.