20 February 2013

Gambia: Refugees From Casamance Are Returning

The fighting in Casamance seems to be winding down as information gathered from the refugees residing in Bulock, Foni Brefet Distrcit of West Coast Region, indicate that an estimate of 65 percent of those residing in a settlement called Katonge, in the outskirts of Bulock village, few metres from The Gambia-Senegal border,

has returned to their native villages during mid 2012 and several others are planning to return this year as well. Most of these refugees have been residing in the said area for more than a decade.

According to Famara Colley, a native of Kuram Village in Casamance, he and his entire extended family fled into The Gambia in 1998, when fighting broke out between MFDC combatants and the Senegalese Army. Colley said since then he and family were residing in Bulock. Colley said at first it was very difficult for them to settle among the Bulock villagers, but later the Alkalo and the village elders decided to give them a plot of land where they built their houses and do farming. He said though they have peace of mind but could not get the adequate land to do as much farming as they were doing in their native villages in Casamance. Colley indicated that several families from his native village have decided to go home mid last year. He added that he and family decided to stay for a while to allow their school going children to reach high school.

Dawda Badjie from Kabakel village said, he and his family came to the Gambia and settled in Bulock in 1998, after the heavy intervention of Senegalese forces thus making the entire villagers to flee to Bulock village, the nearest to them. He said though, several of his fellow villagers have relocated to Brikama, Kombos and Serrekunda, for a better life, he decided to stay and do cross border farming as the land allocated to them is very small.He asserted that before the end of this year he would leave for his native village.

Ousman Colley, a native of Gurack, posited that he and his entire villagers fled to Bulock in early 1997, when fighting broke out in their village, prompting the MFDC rebels to set up a camp in their village. He said more than 500 people from the surrounding villages fled into Bulock leaving behind all their ruminants. Ousman said his family had about 50 heads of cattle, but made it to Gambia with only 5 cattle, 10 goats and 3 sheep. He said some of his sisters and brothers are currently residing in Brikama, Serrekunda and other towns doing petty business to make ends meet. He said his father, mother and the elderly members of the family have all returned to Gurack. He stated that he could not go because all his children were born in Gambia and are going to school.

Malang Jarju, a native Kabakel said he would be going home soon. Malang stated that their family left behind an orchard of mangoes, oranges, cashews and could not afford to continue losing that. He said he used to cultivate back in Casamance sustain his family for the entire year. He indicated that in Bulock they were only given few hectares of land for farming, which is very small for the entire refugees. Malang asserted that he has a family of 15 heads feeding them through farming and cannot continue to depend on the small piece of land given to him. He said back home they have inherited a vast area of farm land big enough to cultivate several different crops and fruit trees.

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