The public relations officer of the Ecowas mission in The Gambia has refuted claims that the West African troops are, addition to their mandate, protecting Senegal’s economic and political interest in the country.
Since their deployment and distribution to parts of The Gambia, the Ecomig contingent in Foni bordering the Southern Senegalese province of Casamance, comprising mainly Senegalese troops, has been at loggerheads with the locals. In June 2018, a spontaneous demonstration against the presence of troops in the area led to the killing of a Foni native Haruna Jatta allegedly by Ecomig soldiers. There have also been reports of Ecomig soldiers stopping or arresting trucks suspected of smuggling wood from Casamance.
But speaking to The Standard, Ecomig spokesman Commander Andy La-Anyane countered:
“People have the misconception that because of the Foni area issue, Ecomig is taking sides just to further the interest of Senegal. That is not the case. We are strictly observing our mandate and are not here to serve any interest apart from our mandate and even Senegalese forces are under that mandate.”
Commander Andy argued that the proliferation of social media now means that anyone can put up misinformation just to discredit organisations or institutions to suit their feelings, which is not fair. “The best practice in journalism or indeed any form of information distribution is to listen to the other side too so that followers or listeners will make their own judgement or they will understand the story better.
“We are professional soldiers from our various countries who are not here for Senegal. For example, I am a Ghanaian who have nothing to do with somebody’s problems or whatever but I am here on a clear mandate from Ecowas and the same thing goes for all our soldiers. We are purely working on our mandate,” he said.
Commander Andy said whatever Ecomig does is done in consultation and close working relations with the security forces of The Gambia. “We are not here on our own to do whatever we want – we always work closely with the Gambian armed forces and other security agencies. When you come to the Ecomig before this Covid-19 restrictions, you would find a bee-hive of activities with central briefings involving us and the Gambian security forces. We have the police and other security agencies taking part in our morning briefings, so there is nothing to hide,” he added.
Relations with GAF
Commander Andy said the West African troops continue to share a good working relationship with the GAF and other security forces.
“There is no miscommunication between Ecomig and Gambian security forces though sometimes people may make certain decisions that may affect relations between certain institutions but generally, we work in a close and collaborative manner,” he added.