Senegal has revealed its new WMA301 Assaulter armoured vehicles, along with Ram Mk III armoured vehicles, TRF1 towed howitzers and other hardware during its independence day parade, as the country boosts its military manpower and equipment to combat Islamist militants.
An estimated 5 000 people, including 3 000 military and paramilitary personnel, took part in Senegal’s independence day parade on 4 April to mark 56 years of independence from France. Footage from Radiodiffusion Télévision Sénégalaise revealed 12 Norinco WMA301 Assaulter armoured fire-support vehicles taking part in the parade, along with a WZ551 command vehicle (the Assaulter is a WZ551 6×6 armoured personnel carrier fitted with a 105 mm gun).
Television footage also showed at least 24 RAM Mk III light armoured vehicles, recovery vehicles, tankers, bulldozers and 155 mm TRF1 towed howitzers. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that Senegal received eight of the guns from France in 2011 along with Renault TRM 10000 artillery tractors.
Senegal was revealed as a customer for the Ram Mk III vehicle in February last year, when it emerged that Senegal acquired them from Israel to use on behalf of the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOC).
IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly also noted that the Gendarmerie paraded five Brazilian Engesa EE-11 Urutu armoured personnel carriers as well as two mobile vehicle scanners during the parade. Israel has supplied other equipment to Senegal in addition to armoured vehicles, with the Dakar parade revealing Galil Sniper SA rifles, Negev light machine guns, and Tavor assault rifles in service with elite units of Senegal’s armed forces. Regular Senegalese soldiers normally use M16A1/A2 rifles and M60 machine guns.
Senegal’s military operates several armoured vehicles, namely around 50 AML-60/90s, ten M-8s, several M-20s, a dozen M-3 Panhards, ten M-3 half-tracks, eight Casspirs and 25 Ratel-20s. In 2009 12 Gila armoured vehicles were acquired for the police for use by peacekeepers in Darfur and 39 Puma M26 vehicles were delivered in 2014 from South Africa.
Senegal’s president Macky Sall on 4 April said that he would boost military hardware and manpower in response to Islamist militant threats such as Boko Haram and attacks by al Qaeda linked groups in places like Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
“I have decided to strengthen the human and material resources of all our defence and security forces to adapt to new challenges,” Sall said. “We are living in an unprecedented situation, which requires us to be civil-minded and much more vigilant,” he added, according to comments released by Senegal’s APS news agency.
The theme of this year’s independence day parade was defence and military forces combating security challenges, and consequently featured much greater military participation than in previous years. Senegal is equipping its armed forces under the Armees Horizon 2025 project.