By Omar Bah, just back from MFDC base
The leader of the MFDC separatist fighters in the Casamance, Salif Sadio, has denied providing a safe haven for members of former President Jammeh’s “death squad”, the Junglers, and Gambian soldiers who deserted the army after the fall of Jammeh in 2016.
Sadio countered the accusations while speaking to journalists at his jungle base on Saturday evening where he paraded two of the seven Senegalese Ecomig soldiers captured during skirmishes with his troops a fortnight ago.
Reacting to a question from The Standard, Mr Sadio contended: “It is not true that we are harbouring Junglers or former soldiers. That is not true. You can look around and tell me whether you have seen any face that resembles a Gambian soldier. If Yahya Jammeh had run with 200 soldiers, he would not have been in exile. He would have stayed here with us.”
He said the MFDC insurrection predates Yahya Jammeh. “The fighting started in 1982. Yahya Jammeh might have been a young gendarme at the time, if he was in the gendarmerie at all [at the time].
“Even then, Senegal could not defeat us. We fought with them that famous war in Bissau without the assistance of any Gambian soldier and yet we were able to defeat them. You see, if a Gambian soldier comes here I will ask him to return to The Gambia because this is a Casamance fight and the sons of Casamance will fight it by themselves,” he said.
Further asked by The Standard whether the MFDC was receiving weapons from Jammeh, Sadio, reacted: “That is not true. It has never happened. This is just propaganda to push The Gambia into the Casamance crisis. The MFDC has nothing to do with Gambian politics. We are dealing with Senegal. I want The Gambia to mind its business.”
Detained Senegalese soldiers
After talking to reporters, the MFDC paraded two of the seven captured Senegalese soldiers to demonstrate proof of life.
With his hands tied at his back, one of the captured soldiers, Oumar Thioye, appeared before journalists and stated: “I can confirm to you we are seven and all my other colleagues are doing well. We are all kept in the same place. We are as you are seeing us. We have been here since 24th January. They are giving us food and drinks but you can only eat if your mind is steady. But this could only happen to a man so we thank God and leave everything according to His will.”
Asked whether he had any appeal to make to Ecowas, he said, tensely: “Well. We are here today because of the mission we came for in The Gambia. We found ourselves in the Casamance but we don’t even know whether it is part of the Ecowas Mission or not. I want to tell our parents to exercise calm and pray for us and leave the rest to God.”
Salif Sadio said the MFDC has not put up any condition on the release of the soldiers.
“We are open to negotiate their release with Ecowas and it depends on Ecowas but we want everything to follow due process,” he said.
The MFDC leader said his movement is not engaged in timber trafficking saying the Senegalese government is using the timber as “propaganda” against them.