Saturday, December 2, 2023

People Flee Gunfire & Shell Strikes at Gambia-Senegal Border 

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By Mustapha Jallow & Nelson Manneh

Tuesday heavy gunfire and spate of shell-strikes along the border of Gambia and Senegal following a clash between Senegalese soldiers and fighters of the Movement of Democratic Force Casamance (MFDC) has forced many to flee.

The fighting between Senegalese soldiers and MFDC’s fighters intensified on Monday forcing some Casamance residents to flee to The Gambia. Gambians living in communities along the borderline flee to neighbouring villages in Foni, eyewitnesses told Foroyaa on Tuesday.

The witnesses added school children were sent away as teachers also ran to save their lives. The situation was getting tense as some gun shells entered Gambia territory. Many border residents feared for their safety, said the witnesses.  

Ousman Jammeh, the councillor for Bwiam said he was sleeping when he had a heavy sound of gunshots late in the night of Monday (8 May 2023). He explained that the fighting is taking place in Casamance but it is not far from Janack and Kabokorr villages in Foni Bintang.

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“I’m scared. The villagers are scared too. Hearing the gunshots makes them frightened,” he said. 

He added: “As I am speaking to you, there is still heavy fighting going on. The fighting is very close to us. We cannot even sleep anymore because we don’t know where the people are shooting. And this is not a barrel sound, but it is more like AK-47 guns. So, really we are not comfortable at the moment.’’ 

Jammeh said the people of Bwiam are on high alert for evacuation because they are not sure what would happen next since heavy gun sounds are coming from their neighbouring villages in Foni.

“We are cautioning our children not to go far. We are gathering them {children} together because we do not know what is going to happen next,’’ he said.

He added: “We did not even allow children to go to school. We are also confused and helpless. So, I’m begging the government to help us and talk to the Senegalese government to put a stop to the fighting along the borders.’

“I want the government to take this issue seriously. Senegalese forces would say they are fighting the rebels, while in reality they are also shooting and killing innocent people at the borders,’’ Jammeh said.

 He further appealed for a dialogue to be opened between the Senegalese government and MFDC fighters, saying the Gambia should take the lead in mediating peace talks between two enemies.

“Dialogue is better than the bullet. The gun can kill the rebels, but it is also going to kill innocent people. Let both parties sit on a table and find a lasting solution to the long conflict, than they fire at each other every now and then,’’ he pleaded.

 Meanwhile, some villagers were cautioned not to visit their farmlands or go along the border areas. 

A shell penetrated through a house in Kayengha village in Foni. So far no death was reported at the Gambian territory on Monday and Tuesday heavy exchange of gunfire. Some residents were also seen in footage picking gun cells, while others showed the ground where some shells landed.

Honourable Bakary K. Badjie the National Assembly Member for Foni Bintang said the shooting is taking place in Casamance – the southern region of Senegal, but very close to the borderline.

“I have not yet visited the villages along the board that are affected but as per the information I have gathered, I am reliably informed that in Kayengha village a bullet landed in one of the houses, but nobody was inside the house at the time of it landing,” he said.

The lawmaker said there are pieces of evidence to justify that shells are landing in the Gambian territory which is not safe for the people. 

“In some of the villages around the border within my constituency shells are landing there and the people living within those villages are terrified,” he said.

He said in Jakhin Village residents have seen shells within their village. 

“Not only one village is affected, all the villages along the border belt are affected.”  

Kawsu Colley, an eyewitness said he visited some of the affected villages because his relatives are there and he was able to pick some shells that landed within the Gambia territory.

“I visited Kayengha village, where I went to the house where one of the shells landed. There is no casualty, but the people living there are afraid and have started vacating the village,” he said.

Colley said the border villages are not at ease. 

“Compound heads have started taking their children out of their village. Pregnant women and children are moved to the villages closest to the Trans-Gambia Highway.”

He said on Monday, 8 May 2023 during his visit to some of the border villages he met with the Gambia Army Force patrol team who came from Sibanor and Kanilai that they were patrolling around the borders.

“I can confirm to you that the shooting is not taking place in the Gambia territory, but shells are landing in some villages along the border. Women together with children are now fleeing their homes,” he explained.

Recently, a 20-year-old resident of Gibangarry village of Foni was hospitalised after being shot in Casamance allegedly by the Senegalese military forces. Jerreh Sanyang was shot on his waist around the rib while on his return from Casamance for a transaction his uncle sent him to run. 

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