By Lamin Cham
For the first time since four residents of Foñi were shot dead across the border in Casamance, the Gambia government yesterday issued a statement expressing regret over the deaths and vowing to investigate the circumstances.
In the latest incident Friday, three young men were killed by drones in Casamance while a fourth survived with serious injuries. Last month, a man from Gifanga village was killed in similar circumstances while his companion sustained injuries.
The incidents led to calls by the National Assembly Members of Foñi for the withdrawal of Senegalese forces in the area and allegations that government targets Foñi people with wrongful termination.
For the first time since the incidents, the government yesterday issued a statement saying: “In the wake of a recent press conference convened by National Assembly Members mainly from Foni constituencies on the 2nd of November 2022, The Gambia Government wishes to clarify serious unfounded allegations raised by the representatives.
Among a litany of complaints, the Honorable members raised concerns over the presence of ECOMIG forces in Foni, investigations into the deaths of certain individuals particularly, the death of one Yankuba Badjie, the unsubstantiated allegations of unfair termination and dismissal of Foni “citizens” from key civil and public service positions as well as targeting of people from Foni by the various Commissions of Inquiry.
The Gambia Government takes these statements seriously and wishes to restate for the benefit of the five National Assembly Members and the public that the security and territorial integrity of the country are paramount.
The presence of the ECOMIG forces across the country, the Foni Region inclusive, is necessitated by genuine security concerns exacerbated by a porous southern border. The ECOMIG have been instrumental in maintaining peace and security as The Gambia navigates its very sensitive transition.
The Government takes allegations of loss of all human life very seriously and is committed to carrying out all necessary investigations to ascertaining the circumstances.
With regard to the reports of the shooting of Yankuba Badjie, investigations have confirmed that Mr. Badjie died across the border in the Casamance region of Senegal. The late Mr. Badjie was non-Gambian, registered refugee with UNHCR and had resided at Gifanga village. Meanwhile, the Gambian authorities are closely working with their Senegalese counterparts regarding this case”.
However, the National Assembly Member for Kansala Almamy Gibba shared documents with Kerr Fatou purportedly to be Gambian birth certificates and ID cards of the victims.
“There are talks going around saying these people killed are Senegalese and they have refugee cards. Here is the evidence that these people are Gambians. I have the birth certificate of Demba Colley, the ID Card of Sulayman Colley and the ID Card of Alagie Manga,” Hon Gibba told Kerr Fatou.
The Standard too has seen documents purportedly refuge registration cards of the dead men leaked online.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Kansala Ali Nyassi has called on the people Foñi to handle the crisis with calm and promote peace in the area. He also disputed the version that the men went into Casamance to fetch firewood but declined to say what they went there for ”until the right time”.
Asked whether the victims might have been engaged in wrongdoing in Casammance, Hon Almamy Gibba told Kerr Fatou’s The Brunch programme that even if the victims committed a crime there, it does not warrant them to be shot on sight. ”I think the reasonable thing would have been to arrest them and bring them to justice,” he argued.