Opposition supporters in southern Gambia on Friday protested the presence of West African troops and seizing of the former president, Yahya Jammeh’s assets in the Foni region, escalating tensions between locals and the military.
Shots were fired and at least five people have been reportedly wounded in clashes with soldiers guarding the defeated leader’s seized compound, according to opposition activists.
Protesters, visibly angry were swearing at the country’s new leader, Adama Barrow, accusing his administration of tribalism and demanding that ECOMIG troops, mostly from neighboring Senegal to leave.
“They opened fire on unarmed protesters and four are seriously injured. One staff sergeant threatened to fight and shoot protesters with an RPG,” said Sulayman Shyngle Nyassi.
“ECOMOG soldiers shooting people is unacceptable. Five people have been shot,” according to Ousman Rambo Jatta, a senior member of Jammeh’s APRC party.
The Member of Parliament for the Foni Kansala region, Musa Amul Nyassi (APRC) had challenged the posting of ECOMIG troops in the region, saying it has caused panic and fear. He called for their withdrawal after vigilante youths prevented security forces from accessing Jammeh’s compound before the asset freeze.
A court in The Gambia last month froze all of Mr. Jammeh’s domestic assets, angering his supporters and native Jolas, who accuse the new government of targeting them. Jammeh has been accused of corruption and financial mismanagement.
Barrow’s administration said the former military-backed strongman swindled billions during his 22-year rule and made away with at least $50 million to Equatorial Guinea, where he has been given a safe haven by autocratic ruler, Theodore Obiang.
A skirmish between soldiers loyal to Jammeh and West African forces in March left at two Gambian soldiers shot in the leg in Kanilai, Jammeh’s native village, two hours southeast of the capital, Banjul. Gambian authorities had downplayed the incident as a “miscommunication.”
The Foni region has been the epicenter of tribal and political tension in the West African country since Jammeh’s ouster. Clashes between government and opposition supporters were frequent following the parliamentary elections.
More than 50 people were arrested and charged by the police in the region. Authorities in the spirit of reconciliation released them and dropped their charges after talks between local chiefs and the homeland security minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty.
West African forces were deployed to The Gambia in January after Jammeh refused to step aside and hand over power to Barrow. The inaction of the Gambia’s military, was in part, blamed for the deployment of the regional troops, who are now responsible for the country’s security.