Protests have hit Kanilai, the native home of Gambia’s ousted dictator, Yahya Jammeh. His supporters and villagers, who had enjoyed free electricity, water supply, and food are angered by his departure and seizing of his assets.
And now, they are revolting and demanding the exit of foreign troops a region, where Jammeh still has strong support and a return of his compound in Kanilai, seized by Gambian authorities.
The Kanilai revolt shows proper measures have not been taken by the Adama Barrow administration to assert its authority in the Gambia. It shows remnants of Jammeh’s power and influence.
The Gambia is very polarized, deeply divided politically and tribal sentiments are causing frictions between citizens. Jammeh’s scheme of divide and rule is just starting to have an impact on the peace and tranquility of this small nation.
The incident in Kanilai left at least one person dead amid growing anger. But what happen in Kanilai should not be attributed to the position of the entire people of Foni.
However, Gambian authorities were shorthanded with their handling of incidents leading to Friday’s protest. They repeatedly chose to hold talks with local chiefs and dropping charges against Jammeh supporters in the “spirit of national reconciliation.”
I had warned against the downplaying of a shootout between Gambian and ECOMIG soldiers as “miscommunication” by the government.
These actions sent the wrong signal to many, who now believe they can break the law and not be prosecuted for their deliberate and misguided actions, which is now being influenced by a few senior members of the former ruling APRC party.
They want the population and a fraction of the Gambian army to have growing discontent with the presence of ECOMIG troops, a dangerous and manipulative move that poses a serious threat to our homeland security.
Gambia’s new government want to avoid accusations of favoring foreign troops over local soldiers. They want to make everyone happy. But in fact, their cover up and trying to satisfy everyone, instead of enforcing the law and taking full control is a leading factor to instability.
While Gambian people should be sensitized on the role of ECOMIG in the country, authorities should end the unnecessary dropping of charges against those that break the law.
A continuation of this policy will in fact further put the fragile stability of the country at risk. If not handled as it should by any government, Kanilai will be replicated in many places.
I will uphold the right to protest anywhere in the world but rioting should be met with full enforcement of the law. The Kanilai and Farato incident should not be meant for a talk with local chiefs.
They show the security challenges the government faces amid the wrong misinterpretation of democracy and fear that is holding the security agencies from violating civil rights. The leaders of such riots should be arrested and prosecuted.
While some may argue it will increase dissent against the government, it will also teach everyone a lesson that attacking security forces and breaking past checkpoints is unlawful and ignorance of the law is no excuse.
A Gambian soldier was addressing a crowd in Kanilai and said some of them [Gambian soldiers] are equally unhappy with the presence of West African troops. It is treason for him to say such.
President Adama Barrow must appoint a defense minister and a national security advisor, activate his commander-in-chief role and assert his authority.
In fact, the Kanilai incident could have been prevented but the dormant State Intelligence Agency failed to see it coming. The Kanilai revolt was an organized protest and opposition activists signaled its coming since last week.
I am not the person to go to the extreme, but if this has to continue, then Kanilai has to be buffer zoned and a curfew imposed. It will send the right message that nuisance will not be tolerated. Kanilai is not an autonomous state. It is part of The Gambia and ECMOIG forces are all over the country, more so, in the Kombos.
Individual interest anywhere should not supersede national interest. And Kanilai is not just political, it has tribal connotations with many accusing Barrow’s government of tribal bias. This is fueling discontent in most of Foni.
Barrow’s government must admit the existence of national security threats, and be practical with warnings that any attempt to riot or incite violence will not be tolerated be you a supporter of the government or not.
The government must respond to these threats, including threats of coups. It may sound too far-fetched but that is what growing discontent, especially with security leads to.
The Gambia would have been in a civil war or be facing coups and counter-coups if not for the presence of the ECOMIG troops. Jammeh still has loyalists in the military and unless the law is fully enforced and this so called ‘forgive and let’s move on’ policy ends, the Gambia could slip into a bloody conflict.