By Louise Jobe
Sheriffo Jobe, a resident of Bulock village in Foni, alleges that he was brutally beaten by non-Gambian military personnel stationed at Bwiam in the Foni Kansala District of the West Coast Region.
According to Sheriffo, his truck was hired by one Sulayman Fadera, to carry logs from Sangajorr to Brikama on Friday 2 November 2018 and when coming with the logs, he was first stopped at Kanfenda/Kanilai junction by non-Gambian military officers and later at the Bwiam checkpoint.
In his explanation, Sheriffo said they were carrying mahogany (jaloo) logs from Sangajor in Foni, to Kanfenda road junction towards Kanilai. Sheriffo said he showed them valid documents and demanded further escort for confirmation from the right authorities, whilst leaving the truck in their custody, as proof of what he was saying. After the soldiers consulted his seniors at Kanilai the truck was allowed to leave. Sheriffo said they faced more harassment and aggressive confrontation by officers of the same force, who attacked him for driving past the check-point board and parking at a distance. Heated argument ensued between them and the soldiers and one of the soldiers threatened to shoot them with a rifle. According to Sheriffo, some other soldiers rushed towards him with guns, to force him out of the truck and that when they got him out, they started knocking him violently with their rifle butts, threatening kill him.
He said as soon as he saw the situation, he drove quickly to the Sibanor Police Station to report the incident and seek for help, adding that the matter was so serious that villagers had to come out to save him against maltreatment by the officers.
When contacted by this reporter to shed light on the veracity of the information, the Police PRO concurred with the story. He said that he got the information from the Police on the ground at Sibanor, but is yet to establish the cause of the incident; that if they finish their findings, they will inform this media accordingly.
Michael Larbi, the ECOMIG PIO in the Gambia based at Fajara when contacted, said that the non-Gambian forces stationed in Foni are there under a bilateral agreement between The Gambia and Senegal and are not under the command of ECOMIG or ECOWAS forces in the Gambia. He added that the forces in Foni are Senegalese troops brought to The Gambia to curb the trade in illegal forest products such as firewood and logs. Larbi said they have been informed of the incident but said the ECOMIG contingent sent to the Gambia, has no idea about the incident; that they only received the information.