Foni demonstrators deny carrying arms, accuse soldiers of threatening them

Foni demonstrators deny carrying arms, accuse soldiers of threatening them

Protest leaders in Foni Kansala have denied being armed with locally made firearms during clashes with West African forces that left at least one person dead and several people injured.

Gambian authorities said Saturday that protesters were engaged in “violent provocations” and attacked security forces wounding three soldiers.

According to David Kujabi, a youth leader, protesters were met on a highway by ECOMIG forces, who start shooting at them. He did not say if a warning was given or not but denied that demonstrators were armed.

“Some of the soldiers who were standing fired in the air while those who were on their knees fired straight at us,” he said.

The Foninkas are accusing security forces in the area for harassing, threatening and intimidating them; and sometimes detained them unlawfully.

“The whole of Foni gathered in Kanilai to mount a peaceful demonstration and to bring to the attention of the authorities some of the harassments, threats, and intimidation we are receiving from the regional soldiers posted in the area,” she said.

“The soldiers are residing in the bushes where the locals graze their cattle and they would detain and sometimes punish us whenever we go to collect our cattle or collect firewood.”

Foni has seen unrest since former President Yahya Jammeh’s defeat in the presidential elections. Dozens of people have been arrested in April across the region that was marred by post-electoral violence.

Parents have been holding their children at home and teachers have reportedly left their posts and refused to return to the local schools.

Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has issued a warning that the events in Kanilai, former President Jammeh’s native village, will not be tolerated in the small West African state.

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