The Gambia Armed Forces Operation team in support of peace, headed by Lt. Colonel Omar P. Bojang on Saturday 23 April, 2022, conducted a border patrol with journalists to all the border villages in Foni.
The purpose of the activity organised by GAF, was to give journalists the opportunity to gather first-hand information and also to interact with the affected families after the clash that occurred between the Senegalese army and Movement of Democratic Forces in Casamance (MFDC).
The patrol team visited some communities including Ballen, Karinorr, Gilanfary and Baipal that are considered as Red Zone areas.
Ebrahima Bojang, the alkalo of Ballen village, said the attack on the MFDC began as the Senegalese Forces allegedly forced their way to Casamance which is less than hundred meters from his village. “Shells were landing in my village and as a result, everyone fled,” he said.
“I was left here in the village with few others to take care of our livestock and properties. It was a very difficult moment for us but we thank Colonel Bojang and his team for keeping us safe.”
He added that GAF soldiers have played a significant role in keeping them safe and also made sure that anytime they contacted them during the period, they always responded to their concerns on time which minimised economic loses.
Bojang said “sometimes we hide over the trees when the shells were landing but it is nearly a month now we didn’t hear any explosion but we are hoping that everything would be fine and would get back to our normal businesses.
“We are Gambians and therefore, we shouldn’t be neglected. We are taxpayers and we participate fully in electing leaders. We need help in any form,” he added.
Farba Nyassi, a woman residing in Baipul village, said they are facing lots of challenges. She called on the government to attend to their urgent needs, adding that life has been extremely difficult for them. She said since they fled the village, their properties have been stolen.
Modou Badjie, Gifanga village alkalo, said the conflict has badly affected the community. Initially, we were hosting about 10 different families in the village.” He added that the only support they received from the government is five thousand dalasi for each household. However, he said many have not got the money yet.
“We are appealing to the government to help us,” said Malamin Colley, alkalo of Karinorr village. He added that “our children are not going to school because the school had to close. We want the soldiers to stay here so that the people can have the confidence to move around their daily routines.”
Almay Gibba, the village Imam of Upart, said his community has been living with numerous challenges, adding that accommodation had become their major problem. He called on the government and philanthropists to support them. He also confirmed that his village is yet to receive any support from the government.
Lt. Colonel Bojang said the fight in the region has affected many families, adding that their role as soldiers is to protect the people. “We always conduct patrol within the border to make sure our territory is safe. When the shells were landing in our territory, we informed the CDS and he engaged the Senegalese authorities and according to their response, it was not intentional that shells were landing in the Gambian area.
Colonel Bojang added that Upart village is less than fifty (50m) from the border and had registered a large number of refugees. He said at the border, the MFDC mounted a checkpoint but even at that, he said they have been working under difficult moments to ensure the people are safe.
The team ended its visit in Kafuta where Colonel Bojang who led QRF 1 handed over the responsibilities to Lt. Colonel Abdoulie Jatta, who will be leading QRF 3 patrol team in the border.