By: Alieu Ceesay
Some heads of borderline villages in the West Coast Region have renewed calls about the perpetual threats posed to their lives and livelihood by the activities of the ECOMIG contingent, Senegalese forces, present in Foni, as they continue to live in a state of apprehension.
Modou Gibba, the Alkalo of Gifanga village, recounted several unsettled encounters with Senegalese soldiers, highlighting instances of the use of offensive language and baseless accusations meted against, including harboring or giving sanctuary to Casamance rebels.
“The last time they came to my compound, they took my phone, searched it, accused me of dishonesty, and snapped pictures of me, warning that a day would come when I must tell them the truth,” shared Gibba, while expressing his anxiety and concern for his life. He implored the Gambian authorities to consider and protect them from potential harm now and in the future.
Mr. Gibba continued to say that his farming activities have drastically slowed due to constant threats from foreign security forces in his home village and its precincts.
Ma Lamin Colley, another leader from the border community of Karunorr, echoed similar concerns about the intimidating behavior of Senegalese forces.
He recounted a particular incident in an ECOMIG Senegalese soldier who summoned him to answer to a commander, where he flatly denied accusations, including villagers setting traps against his men, as the commander threatened to burn down his village if care was not taken. He also said while on his way to the commander, he was frightened by the loud sound of gunshots in the woods.
“One day, I was here in my compound. A soldier came in and told me that his commander needed me. I asked where, and he led me to his commander. On our way to the commander, I heard loud gunshots, and I told him you are taking me where the sounds of gunshots are coming from, he said, don’t worry, and asked that I comply once we reached. Upon arrival, the commander told me he noticed that some people from my village had set traps against his men in the bush, which I denied. He then told me that if the commander comes back again, he will burn down the village,” Colley explained with grave concern.
The recent clash between Senegalese forces and separatist rebels has displaced many residents of Gikess Dando village, fleeing for their lives and seeking sanctuary in safer communities.
Colley also highlighted the disgusting situation faced by domestic animals, their source of wealth, with some being killed and others injured during the conflict.
In Gikess Dando, Pa Sanyang, the head of the village, challenged the Gambian authorities to protect their sovereign rights as Gambian citizens and taxpayers against the continued threats coming from ECOMIG Senegalese forces in the area.
“We are questioning the government over our rights to protection. Are we not your citizens? We pay taxes in The Gambia, yet we remain unprotected. When the need arises, there is no one to address our concerns,” Sanyang said with anxiety.
Ousman Jarju, the head of the village for Kangalabatche, acknowledged the law-abiding nature of Foni residents, especially those along the borderline. He urgently called on the government for intervention as fear and uncertainty engulfed them.
“We don’t even have a dagger to defend ourselves from the ongoing conflict. We need help, and now,” Mr. Jarju entreated the Gambian authorities.
All these village heads called on the Gambian authorities to look into their plights and concerns as citizens and taxpayers with the same rights guaranteed by the Constitution as others.