Gambia: One dead, six injured in Kanilai demo

Protesting before Gambian soldiers

Seven people sustained injuries from live bullets on Friday 2nd June 2017 while protesting against the stationing of soldiers in and around Kanilai.

By Nelson Manneh, Kanilai, 3 June 2017

Two of the injured seven, all civilians, were in critical condition and were rushed to Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul where they were admitted. One of the two in critical condition, Arona Jatta, could not make it and died shortly after admission. The other five with minor injuries were admitted at Bwiam Hospital less than 10 kilometres from Kanilai.

Buba Jammeh is critically ill at EFSTH; the other five with minor injuries are Amadou Jammeh, Ebou Tamba, Musa Badgie, Bakary Sanyang and Manga.

Kanilai, located in Foni Kansala West Coast Region, is the home town of former President Jammeh.

Eyewitnesses say that protestors moved from the car park and headed for the Kanfenda junction on the highway which is three kilometres away from Kanilai. However, as they moved the ECOMIG troops stationed less than a kilometre from Kanilai blocked their passage and ordered them not to go further. But according to eyewitnesses, the protestors kept moving towards them; the troops now fired bullets into the air but the protestors continued to move towards the troops. The troops now fired on the tarred road and the protestors believe that it is the deflected bullets fired by the troops that hit the six victims.

After the shooting the protestors returned to Kanilai and protested before the Gambian troops at ex-president Jammeh’s premises. They finally returned to the village where they held a meeting and listened to the advice of the alkalo to calm down especially since they had made their voice heard.

The protestors believe that the ECOMIG forces were called and misinformed that they had rebels possessing guns in their midst.

Protestors told Foroyaa that the reason for their protest is that they don’t want to see any military personnel stationed in Kanilai, be they Gambian or ECOMIG Soldiers. They opined that Kanilai is a village like any other ordinary village and should be left alone like other villages because Ex-president Jammeh is no more there.

Mr. Malamin Bojang a relative to Ex-President Jammeh said that they have not been at ease with the troops stationed at Kanilai since Jammeh left Kanilai.

He complained about the destruction of ex-president Jammeh’s properties; that his pictures at the entrance have been torn and all the flowers and the Bahamas meadow have been left to die.

Mr. Bojang said now they want all the soldiers to leave and they are ready of take care of Jammehs properties till he comes back home as he (Jammeh) said he will be back home very soon.

Madam Mariama Tamba a woman in her early eighties said they are really suffering in Kanilai. She said everybody hates Kanilai and the satellite villages.

“Many people are saying that we were enjoying with Jammeh so we have to suffer together with him. If Jammeh has done something wrong I don’t think that it is right for all the community of Kanilai to suffer. We are Gambians like any other person,” she lamented

Madam Tamba said it is believed that some rebels are in their midst in Kanilai.

“That is why during the protest they called on the ECOMIC soldiers to intervene. The ECOMIC soldiers came and started to shoot with live bullets without asking, which led to our children being wounded. Our children are taken to the hospital, we don’t know whether they will survive or die,” she noted.

The Alkalo of Kanilai said he has been receiving many complaints about the way his people are treated, that is why they decided to hold a demonstration, to show the whole Gambia that they are not happy with the way they are treating them.

“We want them to go home we will take up the responsibility of taking care of his [ex-president Jammeh’s] properties till he comes back home by God’s grace,” he asserted.

The commander who is in charge of the Gambian troops in Kanilai declined to comment. He said all he knows is that he is not a resident of Kanilai and that he is there for a mission. He added that he simply saw them protesting but doesn’t know what they are protesting for.

During the protest the ECOMIG commander was no around and the soldiers around declined to comment.

The protesters burnt tires on the high way and chanted, “We don’t need any soldier here,” “Let Kanilai be left alone like other villages.”

The women in the midst of the protestors were each seen holding a calabash, some putting them on their heads; and when the ECOMIG soldiers asked them to go their response was they will never go.

The Gambia Armed Force (GAF) Public Relation Officer (PRO) said he is aware of the incident. He said the shooting of live bullets was done by the ECOMIG soldiers, which led to the injuries of the civilians, two of whom are seriously injured and are admitted at the Edward Francis Teaching Hospital. Foroyaa later learnt that one of these two has died.

On the following day, 3 June, tension was high at Kanilai. The youths were seen wielding cutlasses and there was often push and pull between them and the security forces. PIU were in riot gears including gas masks and truncheons  and were effecting arrests including from the home of the deceased Arona Jatta. The military patrolled the streets.

But there was an attempt to ease the tension. National Assembly member, Amul Nyassi appealed for calm, compliance with the law and acceptance of changes that have taken place.