Gambia’s Interior Minister has described the shooting incident between the ECOMIG forces and Gambia’s Army that occurred on Thursday in Kanilai, home village of former President Jammeh, as accidental discharge caused by delayed communication.
According to him, it is important for the country to understand that there is no cause for alarm, that there is no serious confrontation between the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) personnel and ECOMIG troops on the ground.
Mai Ahmad Fatty made the remarks on Friday at a press briefing at the Ministry’s Conference room following several narrations and version regarding the shooting incident that happened in Kanilai between the two forces.
He said the incident is been blown out of proportion and exaggerated in many quarters.
Narrating how the incident happened, Minister Fatty said part of the four main functions of the ECOMIG mandate in The Gambia is to protect Kanilai and surrounding areas. He said they are doing that and base in Bwiam, not too far from Kanilai.
“We have these forces who supposed to be stationed in villages just before Kanilai and communication was a bit slow in reaching to our Gambian forces that the Senegalese troops will be station there. And by the time the information got to them, there was an attempt by the Senegalese forces to pass through Gambian security corridors. At the time the incident took place, the Gambia Armed Forces did not get clearance from the Gambia national army command. They could not allow them access. Fundamentally, the Senegalese forces also acting within the mandate which allows them unrestricted access to that area also felt they have the right to access the area. So that was just a little miscommunication. There was no intentional effort on the part of the Senegalese forces to shoot anybody” he narrated.
He repeated that it was an accidental discharge that resulted to minor injuries but quickly noted that no member of the Senegalese forces or ECOMIG present had any direct aim at anyone. He also noted that none of the injuries where live threatening as victims were immediately evacuated to Bwiam and RVTH and released same day.
“It was a minor misunderstanding or miscommunication that resulted to what transpired. The matter has been diffused and deescalated. There is no tension in either sides – the Gambian side or the ECOMIG side. Both Armed forces are integrated so that they can perform their duties properly” he said.
Minister Fatty described the situation as regrettable adding that a meeting was immediately convened between the ECOMIG command, GAF and the Gambian side. He said there was effective and rapid response in the highest level in the country and consultations were conducted on all sides. He said they had affirmed readiness to continue with ECOMIG on the ground as they are here to help stabilize the country.
“There is no difference or confrontation between the forces. It was delayed communications which cause the misunderstanding at the access point. The Gambian side was supposed to be communicated to but they got the information later before the Senegalese movement. But now there is harmony. We are brothers and sisters with Senegal and the Senegalese forces are performing a important duty on our soil. We welcome them and I want all Gambians to embrace them. They are not an occupying force, they are not here to threaten our peace, they are not here to oppress, and they are not here to impede on the rights of every Gambian citizens. Rather, they are here to improve our security to enable the government become more functional and give us an environment we can perform the reforms that are necessary t move this country” Minister Fatty said.
He commended the Gambian forces for acting professionally during the incident by exercising maximum restraint.
“They did not return fire when the accident discharge happened. They behaved in the most disciplined manner which really helped to deescalate the tension during the inadequate miscommunication at the time” he said.
Minister Fatty assured that measures will now be taken in order to avert this kind of situations. He said effective coordination has been restored among all sides, communications will be effectively improved and the situation as at now has been restored to normalcy.
“There is no cause for alarm. No one in the country should be worried about anything and everything is quiet and peaceful. Nobody should be concern about going out or traveling or passing by Foni. This is not a grave situation and not dangerous phenomena and there is no escalation of violence or hostility but natural occurrence. We have learnt from this lesson and the lesson will continue to guide us and the ECOMIG command too has learned from this” he concluded.