(JollofNews) – Rumours of a heavy build-up by officers of the Senegal led Ecowas Military Intervention Group (Ecomig) in Gambia’s former President Yahya Jammeh’s home village of Kanilai and elsewhere ahead of an alleged assault on the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) in Senegal’s southern region has been debunked by the 4th Infantry battalion commander at Kanilai.
Major Wassa Camara, acting commanding officer, said the Ecomig soldiers did not come into the country by themselves and by virtue of their mandate, they cannot leave the Gambia and unilaterally operate in Senegal.
The Casamance conflict is an ongoing low-level conflict that has been waged between the Government of Senegal and the (MFDC) since 1982 and has resulted in over a thousand battle related deaths.
The MFDC has called for the independence of the Casamance region, arguing that they do not benefit sufficiently from the region’s richness and that Dakar, the capital, reaps most of the profit from the region’s products.
But Major Camara said the rumours are only psychological operations with intent to create fear in the minds of the people.
The soldiers are deployed within Foni on Ecowas mandate after the tiny West African nation’s former president Yahya Jammeh lost power in a December 2016 election.
“The Gambia Armed Forces has no problem operating with the Ecomig troops within the same territory. Here, we have a strong civil-military relationship and we hope to continue nurturing that,” he told JollofNews.
Last June, thousands of Foni residents held a protest in Kanilai, some 118km from Gambia’s capital Banjul, demanding an end to the militarisation of the region.
The protesters clashed with Ecomig soldiers who fired live ammunition on them killing one and seriously wounding several others.
“The mandate of Ecomig troops is in fact within Foni while Gambian forces occupy Kanilai and border villages. What is paramount here is we have to ensure that security is guaranteed within our area of operation. Whatever affect us will affect the rest,” Major Camara said.
He appealed to the people of Foni and the entire country to know which information to trust, saying civilians play an integral role in helping to maintain peace.
“In as much as we are here, we will continue to engage and sensitise the communities about the importance of civil-military relationship.”
Major Lamin Dodou Sanyang, officer responsible for farms and farm products in Kanilai, said they are trying their best to make security conducive within Foni.
He added: “We will never distance ourselves from the civilians because we are part of them and the community.”