By Mustapha Jallow & Kebba Mamburay
Violence and Mayhem continued in Busumbala for the second day running, on 11 January 2018.
There were pitch battles on the highway between the police and rioters who pelted rocks at them.
Following the unrest on Wednesday night between angry UDP supporters and APRC, a large number of “Busumbalans” again occupied the highway on Thursday. A group of personnel of the Police Intervention Unit was redeployed to control the agitated youth who were throwing rocks, burning tyres in the streets and breaking vehicles glasses.
Officers could be seen firing bullets in the air to disperse angry opposition supporters and chasing them. The angry rioters had earlier mounted a siege on the Busumbala-New Yundum highway accusing former ruling party supporters of provocation and causing some damage to their imam’s compound. A fired bullet numbered (325 – 90 ) was picked up at the scene.
The crowd of mostly young men and women threw rocks at the security officers. There was a stand-off between the crowd on the one side and the PIU officers on the other in the streets. No vehicle was allowed to use the highway to go to Brikama or Serekunda; they were diverted. The tension increased when the armed PIU personnel used tear gas canisters and bullets to disperse the crowd.
Two injured APRC supporters denied the allegation that they were the first to attack, they said while concluding their nation-wide tour as they arrived at Busumbala, some young men started insulting them and throwing stones on them and this led them to counter attack too.
As the tension heightened, one of the heads of PIU could be heard with megaphone saying, ‘Leave now, as we are going to use force against you.’ Other junior officers were heard saying ‘let us our AK47 kill all of them-insulting.’ Immediately after the senior officer issued the warning, these reporters witnessed the chasing, beating and arresting of some youth.
Some angry men staying at the imam’s home were seen insulting officers which led officers to attack, beat and throw tear gas canisters in the compound. Some emerged from their homes to throw rocks at the security forces.
18-year-old and native of Busumbala, Ousman Ceesay, who was part of the crowd was shot on the right shoulder. He was rescued and rushed to the Brikama Health Centre by his peers. Visiting the hospital, Ceesay and a young lady-Haddy Ceesay were seen admitted and nurses were busy administering drips on them. Both were in coma and were later referred to Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital at about 4pm.
Three men injured on their head were also seen on board a PIU pick up heading towards Serekunda way while three others were briefly held in a PIU truck and later released leading to jubilation by their colleagues. Another senior PIU officer was heard at the height of the tension, commanding all those with AK47 Rifles to alight from the truck and start shooting anyone who refuse to vacate the place They severely beat a young man and then arrested two boys.
As to how this all happened depends on who you speak to.
One of the rioters, Ousman Saidy said the APRC supporters attacked the parliamentarian of Busumbala Constituency on Wednesday night in their meeting Hall and started beating, stoning and harassing them and setting the shop of one Sirakata Fatty on fire. ‘‘This is a threat to us,’’ he said.
Bua Fofana, a victim, of the incident said the confrontation came as a surprise to him on Wednesday around 6:45PM. He said the supporters of APRC were passing in their long convoy and all of a sudden they entered in the compound of the Imam Ratib of Busumbala, where a naming ceremony was being held; then they started stoning indiscriminately, breaking doors and window glasses and beating them with canes severely. Some he said had to jump over fences to escape.
‘‘Many got injured, including the cooks of the ceremony,’’ he stressed.
Sainabou Jarju and Bakary Cham, both APRC supporters said that they were provoked by a group of men in Busumbala who insulted their parents and not only and threw stones at them. ‘‘They first attacked us and then our people could not hold their temper anyone more. They injured 5 of our supporters and some are still hospitalized,’’ they lamented. They indicated that the country belongs to all.
After the lowering of tension, a delegation from the government consisting mostly security heads arrived in Busumbala led by the security adviser. Addressing the elders and young people of Busumbala, the National Security Adviser Momodou Badjie said the new Gambia needs no political disorder or any such political fracas.
“I have no foresight of the reoccurrence of such in Busumbala and the Entire Gambia at large, this will be the last and all culprits shall be dealt with by law. There will be no stone left unturned; I will make sure all matters are solved peacefully and amicably,’’ he told the community.
Genearl Yakubu Drammeh, the Deputy Chief of Defense Staff (DCDS) gave a few words on the incident, adding that it is their utmost interest to ensure that stability and peace prevails in The Gambia. He further said once a conflict occurs, everybody will become a victim, directly or indirectly as every Gambian is inter-related.
Magette Ndiaye, the commander of ECOMIG, said the democracy of the Gambia has gone beyond boundaries and such is not what democracy calls for. ‘‘We are here to maintain peace in the Gambia,’’ he said.