Press Release from Foni Agency for Rural Development (FARD) on the clash between ECOMIG and MFDC Rebels in Foni.
The past few days have been moments of sobering reflection as dark clouds of fear, anxiety; pain and trauma hover menacingly over the people of Foni. The Monday 24 January clash between Senegalese ECOMIG soldiers and MFDC rebels within Foni; has disrupted the peace and tranquillity of our people. The ugly incident has forced many to flee their homes for fear of losing their lives in a war that has nothing to do with them.
The incident has us thinking in many directions. Are we a people of a lesser god? Are we not sovereign citizens? Why are we treated differently and finally, why the continuous occupational forces in Foni and if for security reasons – why not have Gambian military or Ghanaians or Nigerian forces in Foni – WHY Senegalese forces with the full knowledge that FONI has close PROXIMITY with southern Senegal (Casamance) who are sworn enemies with the MFDC rebels.
Today, besides mourning the death of both the military and rebels who lost their lives in this avoidable scenario – we ask ourselves is this sustainable – the answer is NO – is it avoidable – the answer is an emphatic YES. Since hearing, this unfortunate news, Foni Agency for Rural Development (FARD), has sprung to action to show solidarity to our people and gather some resources to help victims who have been internally displaced. This is a short-term reprieve to help our people but what should we do to have sanity, security, safety, peace and dignified living conditions in Foni.
The presence of the Senegalese Forces in our region since 2018 has in no way given us a feeling of safety but rather makes us feel like objects of suspicion. Our people suffer constant intimidation and harassment whilst our women suffer sexual exploitation and abuse. Furthermore, the ill-placed security checkpoint in Bwiam has caused several accidents yet there is continued indifference about it.
We are appalled by the continued occupation of our region by foreign troops and as an organisation representing our people; we submit the following to the state:
- Immediate review of the security posts in Foni and demilitarisation of the area
27 January 2022
- Replacement of the Senegalese with Gambian Security Forces 3. Immediately ban all timber exports via the area
- Deployment of Gambia National Army around the border
- Remove the security checkpoint in Bwiam
Are we asking for too much? Certainly NOT! We submit to us all that Foni has always been known for peace and security and we have all seen how Foni has been living in unity, peace and love for the longest time. Our silence and niceness cannot and should not be taken as cowardice!
ENOUGH is ENOUGH! We have earned the right to live a free life as is with all others around the country.
Secretary General FARD