The Difficult Lives Of Border Villagers In Foni

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By Nelson Manneh

As reiterated in earlier reports on this medium,  Gambian citizens residing near the border in Foni have lived in the shadow of an ongoing conflict between Senegalese Government forces and fighters of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), for decades.

Deaths have occurred and these unfortunate deaths have all been allegedly attributed to a Senegalese military drone that frequently patrols the borders of Casamance region in southern Senegal and Foni district in the Gambia, forcing residents to live in fear of their lives and that of their loved ones.

Many have abandoned their cattle and small ruminants that have fled to the forest of Casamance, because they do not want to be shot by a “Senegalese military drone” that is killing their youth, without any reaction from the government of the Gambia.

Recent shootings in Foni have seen the demise of Yankuba Badjie, an 18 year old who was allegedly shot by a military bullet while fetching firewood in a forest near his village of Jifanga on Sunday 20th November 2022; Demba Colley, Alagie Manga and Ebrima Colley who were also allegedly gunned down by a military bullet from an alleged drone on Saturday, 10th December 2022, in a forest near the village of Karunorr.

As Demba Colley and Ebrima Colley were buried in Karunorr village on Monday 13th December 2022, Alagie Manga was also buried the same day in Dobong village in Foni Kansala district, and both sad events were witnessed by this reporter.

No government official was present to witness the burials of the recent gunshot victims or pay homage to their bereaved families, including the Chief of Foni Kansala district.  

A tearful Alkalo of Karunorr village Modou Lamin Colley, told this reporter that the day was a sad day for him and the entire village.

On his part, the National Assembly Member for Foni Kansala Constituency Almamy Gibba, said it is devastating for them when they hear people saying that the young people who have been gunned down in Karunorr village, are refugees from Casamance.

Hon. Gibba said there is no law more powerful than the right to life, and said the right has been continuously violated in Foni like nowhere else in the world. He Gibba said what is happening in Foni is uncalled for.

“I will follow this devastating incident happening to our people in Foni, to the letter, because the border villages in Foni are part of Gambian territory and should be protected at all cost,” he said.

According to him, since the sad incident occurred, the National Human Rights Commission has never issued a statement to condemn the act or visit the victims, and said they are observing what is happening and the truth must come to light someday.

To prove and justify the citizenship of the three deceased youth from Karunorr village, Hon Badjie said all of them have the recent ECOWAS Identity Cards and said even their parents have Gambian Identity Cards.

Our reporter could not talk to parents of the deceased because of the visible sad emotion they had on their faces.

On his part, the Alkalo of Karunorr village Modou Lamin Colley, confirmed to this reporter that all the deceased persons are Gambians residing in his village. He said the Alagie Manga was born in Dobong village but was brought up by his uncles in Karunorr village.

He said during the dry season in Foni especially around at border villages, people have no other source of income apart from fetching firewood and burning charcoal for sale. He said all the three youth were killed during this process.

For the information of the readership, Karunorr village is less than a kilometre away from the Casamance border.