A Gambian soldier serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region died on Friday morning of natural causes, military sources confirmed.
Ebrima Sonko was part of some 200 Gambian troops that left the West African nation in March to be part of the UNAMID mission stabilizing Darfur while peace talks on a final settlement continue.
“Ebrima Sonko died of ‘natural causes’ and his remains will be repatriated to The Gambia,” reported Gambian journalist Lamin Jassey.
The Royal Gibraltar Regiment of the British Army helped train Sonko and his colleagues prior to their deployment to Sudan, where the UN reported genocide.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, The Gambia has sent peacekeeping forces to Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Timor Leste, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Burundi, Darfur, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Chad.
Gambian soldiers regularly accused its government of taking at least 30% of their peacekeeping wages. Supporters of former President Yahya Jammeh denied the allegations.
The country’s new government had paid back nearly a million dollars in garnishments that were taken from the pay of officers, who returned from Darfur in February.
Sonko will be given a full military burial in Banjul and honored for his service to the country, UN and Africa for taking part in one of the blue helmet’s most complex mission.
The Gambia has a good reputation in peacekeeping missions, with both the United Nation and the African Union entrusting the country’s soldiers with delicate responsibilities of civil and key infrastructural protection in Darfur.
Humanitarian aid agencies and peacekeepers are under daily threat and Gambian security forces have been tasked with helping to get assistance reach millions.