Gambian authorities are restraining the entire truth in the shooting between its soldiers suspected to be loyal to defeated ex-leader, Yahya Jammeh, and regional troops, mainly from neighboring Senegal, who were deployed to secure the small nation and its president, Adama Barrow.
Gambia’s Homeland Security Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty blamed the shooting on miscommunication and called it “an accidental discharge.” The ECOMIG soldiers were supposedly in Kanilai to search Jammeh’s property. If that is so, how come the soldiers in Kanilai did not know they were coming and in fact, why are Gambian soldiers guarding a private property?
At least three soldiers were injured, shoot in the leg, according to the military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Omar Bojang.
All three Gambian soldiers being shot in the leg in an accidental discharge is illogical. Videos that emerged within hours of the incident show angry villagers walking behind ECOMIG forces accusing them of being foreign invaders.
“This is our country and we own it. This is our home and you cannot come from wherever you come from to tell us what to do here,” they were saying.
Kanilai is Jammeh’s home in the southern Gambian region of Foni. It is close to the border with Senegal and its people have been, for the most part, hostile since the longtime ruler’s ouster. Jammeh’s refusal to cede power to Barrow was the primary reason for the deployment of the West African forces.
Since Jammeh fled to Equatorial Guinea, most in the Foni, who are also his tribesmen claimed they are being persecuted, undermined and discriminated against. Foni became the epicenter of post-electoral skirmishes.
Supporters of the unity government were stoned, their homes targeted and villagers were not receptive to journalists. Journalists from international networks, including Aljazeera have been told to leave because” the people were starting to get irritated.”
In February, 52 people were arrested, including minors and 24 of them, all adults were charged with disturbing the peace and assault. In the spirit of reconciliation, Gambian authorities dropped the charges. In April, after the APRC lost its majority in the parliament, violence broke out in Foni and 26 people were arrested.
In Kanilai, a vigilante group led by a former senior military officer now protects Jammeh’s properties. The group under the instructions of a former government minister, now a Member of Parliament, Musa Amul Nyassi prevented police investigators and security forces from entering Jammeh’s property to reach the burial site of two U.S. citizens that were kidnapped and killed by Jammeh.
Homeland Security Minister Fatty visited the Foni city of Sibanor and addressed community leaders that the government will not condone any further provocation and vowed to enforce the law. It was the second time that Fatty has been visiting the region in what I call pleading.
Fatty, for the most part, pleaded with the regions local chief to follow the law instead of enforcing it and having those breaking the law prosecuted. The first could be seen as a way for the new government that prevented the country from slipping into a civil war to perverse and maintain the peace in a very volatile sub-region.
But the continuous defiance of the people, increasing becoming a threat to national security needs no further pleading, negotiation or downplaying.
Jammeh has used tribe and religion to divide the country and the Gambia is just starting to deal with the dangerous mess he created. But the Barrow administration choice to plead and take it easy instead of enforcing the law and sending a clear message that national security will not be compromised puts Jammeh in control of Foni.
Jammeh may still be in communication with his loyalist within the military and in his home region. He still has a great deal of influence. He has ruled the country for 22 years and had control of all its institution. He was an absolute ruler.
Barrow said the military will be reformed and that a vetting will take place to weed out those that were wrongfully enlisted, many of them Jammeh loyalist. Well, it seems that is needed the soonest.
Three of the people arrested in April during the post-electoral violence there were security officers, one of them, a member of the military’s Republican National Guard.
If the ECOMIG forces were not on the ground in The Gambia, there would have been mutiny, a coup attempt or fighting in the capital. That is exactly what the Kanilai shooting communicates.
Although Gambian soldiers are cooperating with ECOMIG forces, the question that is left unanswered is where did the Gambian soldiers in Kanilai get their weapons from and why are they guarding the president’s compound, a private property.
Gambian soldiers were demobilized and handed over their weapons. In fact, one of the local soldiers is facing felony charges for carrying a loaded weapon into a mosque where President Barrow was attending Friday prayers.
Authorities have said they have recovered all the heavy weapons in Jammeh’s home but Gambia’s Vice President, Fatoumata Tambajang had said Jammeh had stashed a cache of weapons. “He has a treasure there,” she told the Guardian.
Here is what the Gambian authorities have to clear: what did the ECOMIG soldiers went to search for in Jammeh’s home; who authorized Gambian soldiers to be armed and to guard a private property?