Former Gambian Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty is leading calls for the Government of President Adama Barrow to make public the findings of its investigations into last year’s shooting of protesters in Foni by officers of the Senegal led military intervention force in the Gambia.
Mr Fatty said it is not acceptable that an investigation relating to the use of live ammunition on civilians by security forces, which resulted in the death of one man and injury of several others has taken too long.
In June 2017, thousands of Foni residents gathered in former President Yahya Jammeh’s native village, Kanilai, some 119km from Banjul, and displayed banners calling for the immediate withdrawal of ECOMIG soldiers in the area.
They were however set upon by ECOMIG soldiers who barricaded the road and discharged a volley of live ammunition at them killing Haruna Jatta, 54, and wounding several others.
A medical report said Jatta was hit by two bullets on the abdomen causing serious internal bleeding. He later went into hypovolemic shock and took his last breath the following morning.
The Government of the Gambia refused to condemn Jatta’s killing and instead blamed him and fellow protesters of engaging in ‘provocative acts’ against members of the security forces.
Mai Ahmad Fatty who was minister of the Interior at the time, even when further without producing any evidence to accuse the protesters of carrying traditional weapons at the demonstration. He even suggested that some separatist rebels from Casamance had taken part in the protest.
Both the demonstrators and independent witnesses have denied the allegation, describing it as completely unfounded.
Reflecting on some of the things he said on national television a few hours after the incident, Mr Fatty said the things he said in his public statement contained information provided to him by security officers.
“When the incident happened I was in Liberia at the time but I had to cut short my trip to address the situation. When I arrived, I had briefings with my colleagues after that, I went straight to GRTS [Gambia Radio and Television Services] in order to present the government’s position. What I presented there was the intelligence I was provided with,” he told the independent Standard Newspaper.
“As a security minister, I act on intelligence… And what I said at the time was the intelligence made available to me by relevant agents of state. I had no reason at the time to doubt. Because I had no other information to contradict that, so I acted based on information I received,” he stated.
Mr Fatty who was sacked from his ministerial post last November, said following the incident, an investigation ECOMIG- the very security unit involved in the shooting- the Gambia Armed Forces, the Gambia Police Force and the State Intelligence Services.
He added that the matter was also discussed during a National Security Council meeting and recommendations were made.
Explaining things further, Mr Fatty said: “That report would not be necessarily presented to me as the minister to act upon because ECOMIG issue is not minister of the Interior issue. It was not directly under my jurisdiction.”
“First and famous I would want to make few important statements, I was never the minister of Defence. I got involved in the situation when the repercussion of what happened in Kanilai had a potential to threaten the security of this country and as a security minister, I had to do something to maintain stability.
“That was my area of jurisdiction. Haruna Jatta was not killed by forces under my command. It is purely an ECOMIG issue. An investigation was conducted and certainly a report was also prepared by the Gambia Police Force and SIS. And I can remember recommendations were made but that report would not be necessarily presented to me as the minister to act upon.”