By Mustapha Jallow
Colonel Musa Trawally of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) on Monday assured the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance (MFDC) that Gambia will not be used as a launchpad to fight against others/another country.
He made this statement during the release of the 7 captured Ecomig soldiers by MFDC at an event held at Baipal—an isolated village deep in MFDC-held territory in Casamance.
“We as a country (Gambia) will not allow anybody to use our soil to fight against another person. That goes to your (MFDC) side too, because we are sharing border with you people. So, the same way people will claim that people are using Gambia to fight against them, it could also happen on their side,’’ Trawally told MFDC top commander.
He, however, urged the MFDC to exercise the same.
“I want to repeat and reassure him (MFDC top commander) that The Gambia stand and remain neutral in this ongoing crisis. For over 40 years, this thing (Casamance/Senegal conflict) has been going on but there has never been an instance where one would claim that people are operating inside Gambia against them. So, that goes to tell you that The Gambia is definitely neutral and we want to remain neutral in this problem,’’ he said.
“Sometimes people can send out misinformation, but if you reflect 40 years back and said to yourself this has never happened, how comes today. It is unfortunate that an incident like this happened. But we hope that it will not happen in the future.’’
Speaking further, Trawally said the problem has already caused insecurity to Gambians, saying a lot of people have been displaced and schools were shutdown. But thank God the place is now normal, he added.
This, he said, is why they have the armed forces patrolling the territory of The Gambia to ensure that there is continuity of peace.
According him, MFDC should bear in mind that the borders are very porous and when their troops mistakenly crossed the borders, they should have understood that Gambia’s forces were not doing any operation against them.
“We will maintain the flow of communication within us because if we communicate – they will be no misunderstanding between us,’’ he told the movement’s representatives.
Pape Sane, MFDC commander, said they have nothing against The Gambia, but they are only fighting Senegal.
Sane, who said he has spent 31 years in the jungle, assured Trawally that no one will use their movement to attack The Gambia. But he warned Ecomig soldiers in Gambia to stay out of the fight in Casamance against Senegal.
“We are fighting with Senegal and will not stop,’’ he said.
The MFDC urged the Gambia to continue maintaining the smooth relationship between her and Casamance.
Meanwhile, the MFDC on February 14, 2022 released 7 Ecomig soldiers captured in late last month gunfire incident. This came following a lengthy negotiation involving the ECOWAS mission in the Gambia and Gambian authorities.
Formed in 1982 to fight for the independence of Casamance, MFDC has been largely dormant since the 2014 ceasefire. It was also accused of involving in illegal timber trade to finance its movement, a claim the MFDC leader dismissed during his recent face to face with the press when the issue was raised.
Rebel leader Salif Sadio told reporters that they are against the timber trade in Casamance, which was part of their condition in an agreement with Senegalese authorities in Roma, Italy.
Colonel Trawally was part of the delegation comprising a representative from ECOWAS mission in The Gambia, lead negotiator from Sant’Egidio in Italy, an official for International Red Cross, other senior officials from The Gambia and heads of Gambian security agencies that mediated for the release of said soldiers.