Man Recounts Detention in Senegalese Military Camp

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By Mustapha Jallow 
Alpha Barry, a native of Kafuta Tumbung said he was detained for seventeen (17) days in
Senegal.
Barry said he was kept in incommunicado by the Senegalese forces.
He was however quick to say that they were not tortured by the Senegalese security personnel.
He recalled that on Sunday, 28 May 2023, he went to the forest to fetch dry wood, and was
caught by Senegalese security forces that were on patrol in the area. He added they took him
away to Southern Senegal, Cassamance.
“It was a scary ordeal,” he said.
 
Barry and over a dozen Gambians were on 13 June 2023 released by a Forestry Tribunal.
 
“I was cutting dried trees to use it and fence my compound. But few minutes later, I was
surrounded by a group of armed soldiers. They gripped me and put me in one of their vehicles. I
was scared. I thought they were going to kill me. I begged for mercy, but they refused. They
took me to their camp,’’ Barrry explained.
Barry suddenly realized that he was not the only one arrested by the Senegalese forces. He said
24 young boys from Tanji, (who went to the bush to look for “faara’’ for their “Kankurang”
masquerade) and 5 charcoal producers from his village were apprehended by the Senegalese
forces that day. 
“We were first taken to a military camp in Jululum. We wanted to talk to them, but the soldiers
did not allow us to say anything. They said the place, where they will allow us to speak is at the
court. We had no option, but to comply, and wait for the day of the hearing,’’ he explained.
Barry said they were accused of cutting trees without a permit or document from the
Senegalese Forestry Department.
Barry narrated that at the court: “The judge told us to leave Casamance forest. He asked why
we were cutting their trees without permit or document issued to us by their forestry officials. I
responded that there were no dried logs in our villages, but the Judge said that was not an
excuse.’’
Barry said they were later transported to a military detention center in Bingiona, adding they
were neither tortured nor maltreated by the soldiers or anyone.
“I’ve not heard any of the detainees among us complaining of being tortured or maltreated by
the soldiers. We were provided with enough food and water. New mattress, bed sheets and
soaps were all available to us and we thanked the Senegalese authorities for that,’’ he said.
Barry and his colleagues spent 15 days in that military camp before they were moved to
Ziguinchor, where they were handed over to the Senegalese local police by the soldiers in
Bingiona.

He said in Ziguinchor, some soldiers accused them of being rebels, but the soldiers eventually
realized that they were not rebels. 
“We were separated. Each local police station held some detainees. The only problem we had
was that the cells in the stations were small and tight,’’ he said.
According to him, the political tension between opposition leader Ousman Sonko and the
government in Senegal delayed their matter. Due to this political upheaval, they had to spend
days in custody.   
Barry said while he was in detention with 6 of his fellow Gambian detainees, officials from the
Senegalese forestry department came to their place of detention on 17 th June 2023, and took
them to the forestry tribunal that morning.
He said the adjudicator warned them to stay away from the Senegalese forest and stop cutting
down trees without permit.
“He {judge} further advised us to try all means and get permit from their forestry department
before going to Casamance and start chopping off trees. You cannot go into someone’s forest
and start cutting trees without any document being issued to you. If you do so, then that is
illegal because a law is in place for the protection of the forests,’’ Barry stated.
He added the judge assured them that if they were provided with permit by the
Senegalese forestry department, then they would have allowed them to fetch dry wood or
anything for their “Kankurang” masquerade.
“The judge warned that if they we are caught again cutting trees in the Casamance forest
without documents, we would be jailed for a term of six years ,” he said.
He recalled that the Judge mentioned that it is not in the interest of the two nations – Gambia
and Senegal – for ‘such to happen’ since the two countries share many things in common. The
Judge allowed them to return to the Gambia.
Barry said the Senegalese authorities are yet to release his bicycle and he is therefore asking
them to give him back what belongs to him.