Their release was signed by Claude Kondor, ECOWAS political adviser, Father Angelo Romano, Community of Sant’egidio, Italy and Colonel Musa Trawally of The Gambia Armed Forces at Baipal, an abandoned settlement in Casamance. However, the MFDC refused to surrender their wrist watches, bulletproofs, helmets and ammunition.
The MFDC clashed with the Senegalese soldiers under the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG) – in which four Senegalese were killed and seven were captured.
The captured soldiers were: Caporal Souka Diouf, Gana Sene, Attab Diamé, Abdou Ba, Oumar Thioye, Antoine Manga and Diatta Niang.
Pape Sané, Operations commander, MFDC, who also represented Salif Sadio, noted: “We can’t hand over these captives without the presence of the Gambian delegation.”
“We are urging Adama Barrow to follow the footsteps of his predecessors because we have no problem with The Gambia. The strangers that the Gambia is hosting should stay within Gambia.”
He warned ECOMIG to limit themselves within their mandate and that if they stumble on them they will fight.
“For peace to prevail the ECOMIG mission should limit themselves within their mandate.”
“We are handing over these people today and we do not need a dime or a pen. ECOMIG attacked us and we never expected that.”
“We are not bandits or terrorists and the reason for us being in the bush is to separate Casamance from Senegal.”
“These captives said they were ECOMIG but on their wrist watches, it’s written Senegal. This is very complicated, he added. “That means we were attacked. So Salifu warns that this must not happen again.”
Claude Kondor, political adviser, ECOWAS, said: “The release of these prisoners is a deep choice that we have all appreciated. I think we have succeeded in the good collaboration of this mission.”
He recalled that Salif had promised to release the seven soldiers the last time they met without asking for anything. “And he did exactly that and this is a sign of peace in our ECOWAS community.”
Colonel Musa Trawally of The Gambia Armed Forces acknowledged the remarks by the MFDC and noted that their engagements with the MFDC had borne fruit. “When this problem happened, The Gambia set a Taskforce to find out why and how it happened.
It has not been easy, but with the support and cooperation, we are here today to witness the handover and the message from their leader is well received and the message for the Gambian president will also be relayed as well,” he stated.
“The Gambia stands to be neutral in this crisis and for over 40 years, this thing has been happening and there had never been an incident where The Gambia was seen to be involved in this problem and we want to make it clear to you that no one will use this country to fight,” he said, adding the MFDC should also exercise the same.
According to Col. Trawally, this fracas had disrupted peace in that part of the country, noting that borders are porous and that once the Gambian army patrols and mistakenly enters their borders; the MFDC should know that it is unintentional.
He said the main goal of ECOWAS was to integrate economic prosperity among its members.
“When we last came here, you showed us that you are not bandits and not terrorists and this is an extraordinary thing you did,” he said, while noting that ECOWAS needs peace. “What you have demonstrated, I have never seen that anywhere in the world.”
“We are very happy that you are giving us the soldiers without asking for anything and thank you for this humanitarian gesture,” said Kassaum Cauliball from ECOWAS.
The chief of Foni Kansala District, Bram Camara, said he got news of the MFDC-ECOMIG fracas from one Colonel Bojang. However, according to him, since the matter happened, they were never at peace.
He hailed the MFDC for their humanity, saying they could have killed these captured soldiers but chose to hand them over.
He revealed that the situation was worrying for the Gambia at some point because the country is known for its peace.