On the Casamance conflict: we now have reason to act!


The Gambian media was at the receiving end of huge criticism after Casamance rebel leader Salif Sadio appeared on screens and newspapers here.

Salif was basking in a fugitive glory after killing a few Senegalese soldiers and holding others captive, following clashes on the border.

The Standard broke the exclusive story regarding talks to release the hostages and the corpses which Sadio dramatized and used the occasion to issue threats to both Senegalese and Gambian governments. He was ignored. At least, we did.


It was clear that Dakar wouldn’t let things to go without any reaction. So this month’s coordinated attack on the MFDC bases in Casamance was in fact a retaliation to what many considered a humiliation.

The job of journalists only gets understood when it is too late. Gambian journalists provided coverage to the conflict since the first clash but that was criticised in some quarters as giving platform to a rebel leader.

Well, here we are. There are now frequent attacks and Gambian villagers around the border have had to flee for their lives. It looks like the media coverage should have been followed by serious diplomatic engagements between Banjul and Dakar as Gambian lives were at stake.

After more than two weeks of fighting, the Gambia National Disaster Management Agency did a quick assessment of the impact. The results have been pretty scary. In just 72 hours, 9,973 people from 932 households were assessed and registered, mainly in Kansala and Bondali districts.

“The assessment registered 622 displaced households with a total number of 5,626 people. The displaced families predominantly came from villages in Kansala and Bondali districts. The IDPs were hosted at different locations across the 5 districts. The IDPS were from 23 border villages along the Senegal Gambia border belt.

The clashes in the southern region of Casamance has also displaced Senegalese villages who have moved into The Gambia and are being hosted as refugees. A total number of 69 households with a population of 691 people, are displaced from communities in Casamance. These refugees are being integrated into host communities as they have similar socio-cultural backgrounds,” NDMA said in the report.

If this doesn’t jolt the government into action, we don’t know what will. Gambians are at risk; women, children and livelihoods all impacted by a conflict we should never have allowed to spill over into our territory.