Foñi NAMs demand gov’t immediately withdraw Senegalese soldiers

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By Omar Bah

The five National Assembly Members of Foñi have issued a statement calling on the government to immediately withdraw the Senegalese forces stationed in the area.

The lawmakers alleged that the Senegalese soldiers stationed in Foñi are using their presence to attack the MFDC rebels in Casamance which has escalated security challenges in the area.

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In a statement shared with The Standard, the NAMs said: “We (the five National Assembly Members) representing the five districts of Foñi are collectively condemning the continuous military presence in the area and urge the government to immediately remove them there. We felt the presence of the Senegalese forces has instead of maintaining peace and stability caused a lot of damage to the peaceful coexistence of our people and we cannot remain silent anymore. Enough is enough.”

According to the NAMs, the routine crisscrossing of the Senegalese soldiers in the border villagers of Foñi has sparked fear among the residents who are still coming to terms with the recent escalation of fighting in the Casamance region.

“Things like this has never happened during the time of former presidents Sir Dawda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh. The borders were always peaceful despite the war in Casamance. We feel the people of Foñi are unprotected under the Barrow administration because they are continuously left in a very fragile battle zone between the Senegalese forces and the MFDC rebels. Inasmuch as Gambia and Senegal share a lot in common…our government should not allow the war in Casamance to put its citizens’ lives under threat,” the unhappy lawmakers added.

The NAMs also expressed dissatisfaction over the shooting and detention of residents of Foñi by Senegalese forces.

“Haruna Jatta was killed for exercising his right to freedom of assembly and since then the government has not done anything about it. Yankuba Badjie was also killed, Ismaila Tamba and Badjie were also shot in the Foñi and yet, nothing comes out of these cases,” the lawmakers argued.

According to the NAMs, they have secured the medical reports of Haruna Jatta and Yankuba Badjie for future actions against the government.

“We also want to raise issues about the recent clashes between the Senegalese forces and the MFDC that forced a lot of border villagers to seek refuge elsewhere, significantly affecting farming in those areas. So, we want to tell the government that we have equal rights as those in the Kombos or Mankamang Kunda when it comes to protection by the state. We have been punished and tortured and the president should know that the stability of Foñi is by large extension the stability of the country,” the MPs added.

The NAMs urged the government to take the issues of security very seriously especially in Foñi which is very fragile.

“We are peaceful people but now that we are pushed to the corner, we will come up with a strategy to end the intimidation for good. We want to take this advantage to inform the government that we will take drastic actions as representatives of our people,” the NAMs noted. The MPs said the president should remember that what his government is doing to the people of Foñi could happen to him when he leaves power. “You never know what tomorrow brings … You have taken Yahya Jammeh’s home in Kanilai and turned it into a military barracks but if you are not careful, your home in Mankamang Kunda could be turned into something else when you leave power,” the NAMs stressed.

The NAMs statement came a few days after two shooting incidents; one of them fatal, occurred in the bushes across the border.  Though the government has not officially commented on the incidents, the West African troops Ecomig of which Senegal is part, and many other sources, have said none of the foreign troops stationed in The Gambia was involved in the recent two shootings.

”The latest shootings occurred inside Casamance bushes not on Gambian soil. I think the government should come out to explain that so that things can be clear to all,” a source told The Standard.