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Friday, September 18, 2020

The Standard view on Foni incident: unfortunate and avoidable

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Since the former president was defeated in last year’s election and eventually exiled, Foni hasn’t been at all a stable. The authorities should have seen Friday’s incident coming because the writings were clearly on the wall.

Events leading up to Friday’s shooting in Kanilai plainly portended something like this was bound to occur. Shortly after forensics experts arrived in the country to work on identifying and establishing the cause of death of the exhumed bodies, there were reports of resistance by the people of Kanilai to the entrance of the forensics team. Even though this was not independently verified, it gave birth to subsequent standoffs around that area.

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That incident was immediately followed by a clash between supporters of the former ruling APRC and those of UDP after the April National Assembly election. Fortunately, this seemingly dangerous encounter was quelled by the interior ministry and elders of Foni, bringing reconciliation between the two camps.

However, even more unfortunate was the clash between the ECOMIG forces and the members of the Gambia Armed Forces, leading to the injury of at least three Gambian soldiers.

The interior ministry, again, stepped in with a not-so-convincing explanation that it was an “accidental discharge” and promised a thorough investigation into the misunderstanding but, more than a month since that regrettable confrontation, no report has been issued.

But perhaps, the most dangerous of all the clashes that recently happened in Foni was the Friday incident between civilians and the ECOMIG forces stationed in Kanilai. The villagers were protesting against their occupation and demanded that they leave but this ended in bloodshed. The Senegal-led regional forces opened fire on these protesters, killing one and injuring several others. The Interior Minister claimed these protesters carried locally made weapons and provoked the forces which led to the shooting.

We believe the government should have seen this coming and prevented it from the early stages of cropping disgruntlement in the Fonis.

It is sad that six months into the so-called New Gambia, there hasn’t been stability and the much needed reconciliation remains a dream. The fact that armed soldiers opened fire on protesters shows the severity of the situation and The Standard calls on the President, himself, to intervene and diffuse this ticking time bomb.

The people of Foni are Gambians and President Barrow is their president too. If a situation as grave is this happens, that could have been totally avoided, it is now upon the president to use every peaceful means to solve the problem.

We also call on the Interior Ministry to launch an expeditious investigation into the matter and tell the public if the protesters had actually used local weapons and what actually led to the shooting. When all these are gathered and communicated to the public, then the government can decide what to do to solve the problem.

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