By Sarjo Brito
The President of Senegal Macky Sall has released a statement on Tuesday, January 25th 2022, confirming the death of Senegalese soldiers following an exchange of gunfire between the ECOMIG forces and elements of the separatist rebel group MFDC.
Macky’s statement confirmed that the incident in fact happened on Gambian soil and that the soldiers who are supposed to be on peacekeeping mission in the Gambia were on an operation against timber trafficking.
‘’I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of our brave soldiers who died during a security operation against timber trafficking in South Bwiam as part of the ECOWAS mission in the Gambia. May their souls rest in peace. I wish a speedy recovery to the injured’’
Macky’s statement has been met with strong reactions from Gambians, with some accusing the Senegalese government of using The Gambia to pursue their interest. His comment that the soldiers were on an operation against timber trafficking has also triggered questions regarding the mandate of the ECOMOG forces as this many believe is contrary to the mandate of their mission in the country.
‘’I was rifling through the ECOWAS charter in respect of their mandate on Peacekeeping Missions. I could not lay my hands on any part of their peacekeeping mission, where ECOMOG forces (ECOWAS’ Military Force), were granted a mandate, by law, to enforce any country’s domestic law. Investigating wood loggers/deforestation should have been the job of The Gambia Police Force/Gambia Forestry Dept’’
‘’Therefore, I was baffled when I read the tribute of the Senegalese President, Macky Sall, where he praised his force’s bravery in the deadly fight over logs of woods being transported by vehicles on Gambian soil. Who gave the Senegalese Army or the ECOMOG, authority to investigate and confiscate logs of wood transported within The Gambia, a practice they have been engaged in since 2017?’’ – Lamin Tamba, a UK-based Gambian who originated from Foni told this medium.
Senegalese forces clashed with members of the MFDC on Monday following an alleged attempt by the ECOMOG forces to confiscate a truck carrying timber logs. The truck driver reportedly changed course and headed to nearby Cassamance, the southern region of Senegal where the separatist group MFDC are based. The decision of the ECOMOG forces to cross into Cassamance was met with deadly consequences as gunfire ensued, killing two of its soldiers and displacing many in the surrounding border villages.