Editorial: Should Senegal use Gambia as springboard for its timber war?

January 27, 2022

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The villagers at the epicenter of the Monday gun battle between the Senegalese contingent of the Ecowas Military Intervention in the Gambia (Ecomig) and separatists in the southern Senegalese region of Casamance must be recovering from the mental fatigue that the frightening development must have exerted on them.

The locals have once again been transported into the turbulent phases of the low-level rebellion that has killed, maimed and displaced thousands in Casamance since the early 1980s. The emotional and mental toll of war on the civilians could be both far-reaching and wide-ranging.

At the time of writing this editorial, The Progress was not aware of any kind of immediate support to the locals and the displaced as a result of the clash.

This was not their show! No. It was sad that some of them found themselves in this terrifying situation because their government has signed some defense agreements with the ‘Big Brother’, also a client state. While there is nothing wrong in signing pacts to deal with criminals and criminality in each other’s territory, we must be mindful of the ramifications of some of these covenants.

Hot Pursuit Agreement or whatever you may call it, has for the past year or so been emboldening Senegalese security forces to launch incursions into the Gambia and as a result, caused pandemonium.

It was not long ago when one Sulayman Trawally was shot on the hand by Senegalese security forces in his village in Kantora, Upper River Region (URR) of the Gambia. It was not also long ago when villagers of two other settlements in the URR and the West Coast Region were locked in a tense standoff with Senegalese security forces after entering their villages armed to the teeth and threatening to remove timber dealers.

If anything, all what we know about this Hot Pursuit or whatever agreement, are constant trepidation and pandemonium in our border villages. Several discerning minds are though concerned about their current problems and possible implications. The thinking behind some of these agreements could not make sense with many because they do not make the country any better than they had found it, security-wise at least.

Any strategic national interest therein? Whose strategic interest is this war on logging in Casamance serving? Why are we allowing our territory to be the launchpad for these blitzes on timber trade in Casamance?

Let Senegal police the Casamance forest from their own side of the frontier. Of course, the Gambia is very crucial in this equation but not as a springboard. It probably was as a result of good intentions that Senegal is allowed to fight their timber war on Gambian turf but it is our view that some of these agreements need revisiting for the strategic interest of our country.

We are not being callous to our neighbors here, but their fight is spilling over to our country, and we dread this.

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