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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Outgoing Ecomig Senegal contingent appreciated in Foñi

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By Omar Bah

In a rare appreciation of the Senegalese Ecomig troops, the communities of Foñi, including several alkalolu and chiefs, have joined a medal parade organised by Ecowas for the outgoing Senegalese Battalion 6 held at the SSHFC Estates in Kanilai. The medal was meant to recognise the troops’ one-year service with Ecomig in The Gambia.

Residents of Foni danced and exchanged jokes with the Senegalese forces, much to the astonishment of many, including the former National Assembly Member for Kansala, Musa Amul Nyassi, who told The Standard he was shocked when he saw the famous Batiyaye musical group loyal to former president Yahya Jammeh performing at the event.

“I remember since APRC joined the NPP Alliance, if we invited them to our groups, they will turn it down. I am surprised they came here. What must have changed?” Nyassi said.

Impressed by what she saw, Miatta Lily French, the Ecowas country representative in The Gambia, expressed delight over the strong relationship the Senegalese troops share with the residents of Foni. She urged the people of Foni not to see the troops as an occupation force.

“What happened today is a demonstration that the forces are accepted in the community, and they are also able to integrate to help and participate in whatever the community needs, and that is highly appreciated by Ecowas,” she said.

Ambassador French said the event also demonstrated that The Gambia is in the process of healing.

“The reason why these Senegalese forces are based here is because of the previous government and the current one, so the fact that we have seen a day like today in this region is refreshing and heartwarming, to say the least. You know, the Gambia and Senegal have very few differences, and Gambia is like a tongue in the mouth of Senegal, so obviously there will be issues, but it’s one people; the languages and cultures are the same,” she disclosed.

To the community of Foni, Ambassador French assured: “We are here to protect and assure safety, and they should not see us as an occupation force.”

She commended the troops for the good they have been doing, their cordial interaction with the community, and for the service they have given to the community in the hospital and other places. Ambassador French said this is the first time Ecowas is giving medals to the Senegalese forces.

Many past Senegalese contingents stationed in Foni have had difficult relationship with the community.

But according to Col Samba Faal, the commander of the outgoing Senegalese troops, since they came, he has taken it upon himself to change that narrative through engaging the community and rendering services to them.

“When you go to external operations, you need to have a good link with the population because they are key to the success of the mission. So, I understood what our mandate means, which is to help the Gambian population. That is why, since I was deployed here, I have done my best to build a relationship with the locals, provide them with medical assistance, and, on occasion, send my doctors to the Bwiam hospital,” Col Faal said.

He said the Gambian people should understand that Ecomig is here to support the government to maintain stability and the country in its Security Sector Reform (SSR) process.

“There should be no opposition between the force and the population, and it will never happen,” he said.

Col Faal said The Gambia and Senegal are two countries that share everything in common.

“This is just to say that a Gambia without peace and stability is a Senegal without peace and stability,” he said. He said the conduct of his forces during their stay has been outstanding and urged the incoming troops to maintain the same standard.

He thanked the people of Foni and the community leaders for their overwhelming support and solidarity over the past years. Col Faal said almost every member of his battalion has a relative in Foni or some other parts of the country. Commander Faal also presented awards to Ecowas country rep, GAF Kanilai battalion commander and the Commander of the Nigerian forces among others.

The troops set to depart in September consist of 618 soldiers, including commissioned and non-commissioned officers, deployed into the country in September 2021.

The troops also played a friendly match with a team from Bwiam as part of events marking the day.

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