When a peacekeeping military force is deployed in a country and particularly among volatile civilian populations, they usually enter into what is called a Status of Forces Agreement. It is usually from this agreement that the Rules of Engagement are drawn and the Escalation of Force or Use of Force Continuum. When there is a problem like the one that occurred in Kanilai in the past few days, it is these that are looked at to see what went wrong to determine if the shooting was justified or not. It is not clear whether these were entered into in the first place. If they were not, they should be; and if they were, they should be communicated clearly.
In light of the recent fracas involving some people in Kanilai, the village of the former president and some members of the ECOMIG forces which resulted in the death of one protester and the injury of others, the government through the minister of Interior Mai Ahmad Fatty, released a statement in which he said that the protesters were carrying locally made weapons. This has been disputed by the party leader of the opposition APRC, Fabakary Tombong Jatta and many members of society are expressing doubt about the protesters having been armed. It is necessary for the government of the Gambia to launch an investigation into the matter to determine what actually happened.
It is of utmost importance that this investigation is conducted as soon as possible so that the truth may be revealed once and for all. This may serve as the beginning of the end of the disgruntlement expressed and manifested by the people of Kanilai. Certainly, the loss of life is regrettable as life is sacred and should not be taken lightly.
Were the protesters really armed? Who shot first? If the shooting was done to protect the lives of the ECOMIG soldiers, then who gave the order to shoot? Why couldn’t they use rubber bullets or teargas to control the protesters? These are some of the questions that need urgent answers and the government would do well to not delay the investigation at all.
It could be recalled that some time back there was a shooting incident in that same area when at least three members of the Gambia Armed Forces were injured. This was then explained away by the Honourable Minister as a misunderstanding which led to something called ‘friendly fire’. One would have thought that immediately after that incident, an investigation into the cause would be conducted and a full report released to the general public.
The first stage of providing a solution is understanding the problem, knowing its causes, effects and scope will help formulate a comprehensive and lasting solution to it. We call on the government to set up a committee to look into this matter as a matter of urgency.