Att least three soldiers, two of them from the West African stabilization force were injured on Friday when a protest in its southwestern region of Foni turned violent, Gambian authorities say.
Demonstrators, who were asking for the removal of all military forces from Kanilai and the Foni region attacked soldiers in and around Kanilai and other parts of the Kansala district.
Minister of Interior Mai Ahmad Fatty said the demonstrators were armed with a locally made firearm, kartous and engaged in provocative acts towards security forces.
Protesters were professedly engaged in “violent demonstrations” with support from villagers from around Kanilai and neighboring border settlements in Senegal’s southern Casamance region.
Authorities say a “maximum restraint” was exercised and a potential security nightmare was averted after security forces held back from following armed demonstrators who crossed the border into villages in Casamance.
“You either obey the law or be consumed by the law. Let me state: Enough is enough. Acts of provocation to undermine public security will be visibly met with the compelling force of the law,” Fatty warned.
Demonstrators, who were armed, blocking roads, breaking through security barricades and burning tires did not have a permit to protest, according to the police.
Gambia has pledged to respect the right to assembly and protest and Fatty says the Gambia government will not interfere with the right to protest peacefully.
“Gambians have the right to protest peacefully and democratically. We will not take that from you. Your right to protest will be respected, but all protest marches should be done peacefully,” Fatty said.
“But no one should use this as a pretext to cause trouble or provoke a situation of crisis in the country. The exercise of this right must be done in a peaceful manner and no group of people has the right to determine the rule of law in the name of democracy.”
At least one person have died and several people injured during the standoff between “armed demonstrators and security forces.” The investigation into the death of Haruna Jammeh, 52, has been launched.
The police have arrested 22 people in Kanilai, Bwiam, and Kalagi and are being detained in numerous police stations across the Kombo Metropolitan and Greater Banjul areas.
Gambia’s government has vowed to determine the security needs of the small nation and deploy troops in any part of the country as it deems appropriate at any given moment.