Senegal-MFDC scuffle forces 100s in dire situation

Mar 17, 2022, 1:13 PM | Article By: Bekai Njie just back from Foni

Hundreds of internally displaced Gambians across the Fonis near the Gambia-Cassamance borders are in need of humanitarian assistance amid scuffle between the Senegalese military and MFDC.

The Senegalese military launched an operation against the Movement of Democratic Forces of Cassamance (MFDC) on Saturday in a form of retaliatory move following a fracas between the two sides a month and a half ago resulting in four deaths and capture of seven Senegalese soldiers serving the ECOWAS mission in The Gambia.

The president on Monday announced D5 million pledge for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), which will be disbursed through the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) – the body responsible for disaster related matters in the country. Mr. Barrow had also directed Vice President Dr. Isatou Touray to work with the relevant government agencies to urgently respond to the pressing needs of the IDPs.

At least 115 people have sheltered at Bujinha, the home village of former President Yahya Jammeh’s mother in the wake of Saturday's Senegalese military operation against the MFDC in the southern region of Cassamance. 

The refugees are from: Karrol, Kappa, Karan, Monom, Karunor and Funtang villages in the Foni Kansala District. Others have sheltered at different villages in Kampant.

The alkalo (head of the village) of Bujinha, Abdoulie Bojang, who goes by his sobriquet, Aba, said the refugees started arriving at his village on Saturday.

"They have been here since Saturday due to the military operations in Cassamance region," he confirmed. "When they arrived here, we sheltered them in our houses but we don't have mats and mattresses for them and that is unfortunate."

Mr. Bojang said since the arrival of IDPs, no humanitarian response has been received from the government or any NGO. "We did not receive any call as regards to the situation of these people but we are with them as family.”

"We had never experienced such a dire situation. This kind of thing had never happened in the colonial government, Sir Dawda Jawara's government and Yahya Jammeh's government, says Ismaila Bojang, the alkalo of Karrol, a village two kilometers away from the Casamance-Gambia border. 

Mr. Bojang who fled leaving his sons behind, blamed the Gambian leader Adama Barrow for letting this "ugly situation" happen. "It is very sad that we had to leave our village and come because of this scuffle between Senegal and the MFDC," he said. “We left our foodstuffs behind and became a burden for others."

Even though these people are our family, we are still being forced to live with them. This is really a burden."

"I'm shocked that I had to leave my sons behind and come here. That is not my wish. Because we are elderly people, so we had to leave and so they would stay and keep our houses safe for us."

Mr. Bojang who had seen the bullet shells with his naked-eyes due to gunfire said the bush around Karrol had been set on fire due to gun fire and putting animals in dire need.

"We are not only worried about ourselves but our animals as well. At the moment they don't have a place to graze. One of the cattle was shot dead and this could happen to others. When we return, the first thing we want to do is to ask the young men to go and search for our animals in the bush," he said. 

"This is an example of lack of leadership. If you cannot wash your body, how can you wash other people's bodies, he said, citing that Adama Barrow cannot lead himself much more the nation. 

"We are here but our minds are on Karrol. Even this morning, I was telling someone that I would go back home," he disclosed. 

Tuti Jammeh, another IDP from Karrol village, recalled that they got a tip off on Friday that there was going to be a fight between the Senegalese soldiers and MFDC.

"But we did not believe that because it was a rumour. But all of a sudden, on Saturday, we heard gunfire and we had to leave." 

"I have never heard this kind of sounds in my life and it was the first day and we were very scared and that's why we had to leave our village and come here."

"Since we arrived here, five of us sleep on a bed and some sleep on mats on the floor. The situation is very dire but we have to manage it. Some people had to leave their shoes behind and come here barefoot." 

"We hear gunfire every day from here, and we don't even feel safe here because we are hearing gunfire and the next time when you come here you won't find me here." 

"I stayed for some reasons because my husband is here and I don't want to run away and leave him here. I want to die with him."

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