By Staff Writer Karafa Badjie, Banjul.
Paid for and Commissioned by the
Freedom Newspaper

About 300 hundred Casamance rebels are currently scattered in the Gambia, highly placed state house sources hinted today. The rebels who escaped from the ongoing crossfire fighting have regrouped in The Gambia,  in a bid to prepare fresh attacks against the impoverished Southern  Province of Senegal. While the Jammeh government is accusing the administration of President Abdoulie Wade of trying to destabilize his government, he is on the other hand welcoming MFDC fighters into the Gambia. The Gambian authorities are treating these rebels as refugees, but sources said the men were indeed MFDC combatants. Defense official sources quoted the President as saying that “since Dakar was welcoming Gambian dissident soldiers, they too have no alternative but to accommodate fleeing refugees-be it civilians or rebels.” The presence of these rebels into the Gambia, followed the arrest of mercenaries allegedly sent by army fugitive Colonel Ndure Cham to survey the Gambia before finalizing their alleged planned arm resurrection against the Gambian Government. The MFDC rebels  were spotted in the Fonis and elsewhere across the country. It’s not yet clear if the President is giving them any form of support, but what is evident is that these rebels are freely working in the streets of Banjul. Our reporter interviewed some of these rebels who confirmed that they were indeed part and parcel of the MFDC Movement. The rebels said they had access to the Presidential palace and their presence was never a secret to the government.

Speaking in an interview with the Freedom Newspaper,  one of the rebels who currently resides in Buiwam said” We are forced to be in the Gambia due to heavy clashes. The villagers had been very nice to us. I’m staying with one of my relatives. We shall soon regrouped  in the bush. I’m hosted by a Bojang family in Buiwiam. Some of our men are residing in Sibanoor, Jiffin and Kalagi.”said the MFDC rebel. Asked about the whereabouts of their spokesman Alexandra Gibba, the rebel declined to comment saying that” We don’t release information about  our leaders unless we are given the permission to do so. All I can tell you is that the MFDC is strong and alive.” he added.

The Gambian government has been accused in the past by the Wade administration of hosting MFDC rebels in Banjul. These latest developments might no doubt worsen relationship between the two sister countries. Already, the two countries are trading accusations against each other for harboring dissidents rebels. The presence of the Casamance rebels in the Gambia is viewed in some quarters as a “retaliation on the side of the Jammeh government” following Dakar’s refusal to hand over dissident Gambian ex soldiers accused of planning to wage an armed resurrection against the government of the day.

During a visit to a Refugee Camp in Foni, the head of the camp said he cannot rule out the possibilities of some of the fleeing refugees being MFDC rebels. “Some arrived with gunshots. As we speak, some of the rebels are hospitalized at the Sulayman Junkung Hospital in Buiwam. We suspect that they are rebels because they kept saying that they would fight back if they recovered from their wounds. These women and children in the camp are being treated as refugees. Our camp needs  more food and clothing  to take care of the refugees. The ration we have might not be able to sustain these refugees. The rainy seasons is coming. We really need help to take care of the high in flock of refugees.” said the head of the refugee camp who spoke to the Freedom Newspaper reporter.

According to the official, hardly a day passes without them receiving a fleeing refugees from Casamance. “They used this place as a save heaven during rainy season. Perhaps, they don’t want to farm or to get wet in the bush. This could be a tactical move taken by the rebels to use the Gambian  soil for their operations during the summer. We are really worried by these developments. Some Gambian border villages are hard hit by the fighting. The rebels in some instances trespassed  into the Gambian territory. They looted  food and other household stuff they can lay their hands on.” said the official.

A spokes at the Sibanoor police station said he cannot confirm  the presence of the MFDC rebels into the country, but stressed that there was a degree of  possibility that some rebels might snick  into the country while posing as refugees. The spokesman said on many occasions MFDC rebels crossed the Gambia/Senegalese border to do their shopping in the Gambia. ”We recently arrested some rebels and are currently in the hands of the NIA. Well, these rebels said they were sent by Colonel Ndure Cham to conduct secret operations in the Gambia.” said the spokesman.

Attempts to solicit reaction from the Inspector General of police proved abortive. He was indisposed at the time of filing this story.

Posted on Friday, June 01, 2007 (Archive on Monday, July 30, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI

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