By Mafugi Ceesay
A timber dealer, Fanding Sima has told The Standard that his lorry loaded with wood was impounded and burnt to ashes by Senegalese security forces in Casamance two weeks ago.
“The incident happened on 20 December in Tambue village, where armed Senegalese security chased my driver and other workers on the truck.
My people were scared of guns and abandoned the truck and ran away. When they could not catch my crew, they burned my truck,” he claimed.
Mr Sima explained that he had been in the timber business for a decade but never cut down any tree in Casamance.
“All what we do is to buy from our counterpart dealers who sell log to us,” he said.
Asked if he has reported the matter to the Gambian authorities, Mr Sima said he has not done that but he did not believe The Gambia can do anything about it anyway.
“Senegalese soldiers continue to chase us both from their country and in The Gambia, take our timber from us and take it to Senegal even if our documentation says we got the timber in our own country. We regularly complain to our Gambian authorities but they have never been able to stop it. That is why I did not lodge the burning of my truck to anyone,” Sima explained.
He alleged that each time they managed to bring wood into the country, the customs officers would insist they pay duties but they would not help when the Senegalese seize their wood even right here in The Gambia.
“So many times, Senegalese soldiers would collect our timber from us in Brikama or Bwiam and return it to Senegal. We feel betrayed by our government in all aspects,” he lamented.