Gambia’s government stands accused of militarizing an opposition region, which is the native home of the country’s former dictator, Yahya Jammeh.
Opposition politicians are alleging that their supporters in the stronghold of Foni are faced with harassment and discrimination.
The leader of the main opposition party. Fabakary Tombong Jatta said the people in Foni are being intimidated and subjected to humiliating punishments.
He claimed they are suffering these degrading treatments in the hands of West African troops, mainly from Senegal, that pushed their ex-party leader out of the country.
Jatta and his APRC, which enjoys the most support in Foni are asking for the demilitarization of the region and the complete and total withdrawal of military forces.
“Foni does not need any military presence. There is no problem there. Just because Jammeh is from Foni does not mean there should be an army barracks there,” Jatta said.
“When Jammeh came to power he did not send troops to Barajally [native home of ex-President Dawda Jawara]. He could have but he didn’t. So why send armed men to Foni?”
President Jawara never had troops stationed in Barajally unlike Jammeh, who had an entire battalion to garrison his native home of Kanilai and opened a camp in nearby Kanfenda village.
Jammeh totally militarized the region and used it as his safe haven not just with the backing of the Gambia’s army but that of separatist fighters in southern Senegal.
Kanilai, Jammeh’s native village and where his presidential villa sits is right across from the border line with Senegal’s Casamance.
Yahya Jammeh not Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow is responsible for the militarization of Foni.
Jammeh does not have the need to send troops to Barajally when he ousted Jawara in a coup because Barajally was never used as a second political capital and had no soldiers stationed there.
The need to have troops in Kanilai and its surroundings is beyond politics. Jammeh’s loyalists in the army were mostly stationed in Kanilai and Banjul as part of the presidential guard.
Their workings with Casamance separatists makes it a volatile region that will make it a priority for both Senegal and Gambia to secure the area and mitigate any plots that may destabilize the region.
The bottom line is, the Gambia Armed Forces and West African troops can be deployed to any part of the country as part of their mandate.
Foni is not an autonomous region and Fabakary Tombong Jatta and the APRC’s attempt to fuel discontent and resentment towards West African troops, especially Senegalese forces in the Foni region have woefully failed.