The exiled Sanchaba Sulay Jobe Imam Ba Kawsu Fofona has finally returned home on Thursday October 1, 2015, after many years in exile in neighboring southern province of Casamance, the Freedom Newspaper can authoritatively report. Imam Fofona arrived at his home village Jarra Sankuwia today, amid a rousing welcome from his loved ones, friends, neighbors, and religious followers.The Imam fled the country three years ago, following threats on his life. He was tortured while under NIA custody, which led to his subsequent departure from the country. He later resettled in Casamance, where the government allocated him with a place to build his own village. He also operates an Islamic school at the said village.
Speaking to Freedom Radio Gambia, hours after his arrival in Jarra Sankuwia, Imam Ba Kawsu Fofona said his home return was triggered by the “amnesty” Yahya Jammeh extended to exiles and political opponents residing overseas. He said he returned home on that basis.
“I responded to the President’s amnesty that he extended to exiles. It was not my own wish to leave my country and resettled in a neighboring country. The Islamic school I am operating in Casamance, I could have operated the same school in The Gambia. And that what I was doing prior to leaving the country. Both Senegal and The Gambia are my homes. Since Mr. Jammeh has decided to let go and welcome us back into the country, I have decided to return home to continue with my religious work and worshipping. I am now back home. I am speaking with you from my home village Jarra Sankuwia,” Imam Fofona said.
“I welcome the amnesty extended to us by President Jammeh. He first released some prisoners during the month of Ramadan and later announced that he has forgiven those he perceived as opponents of his government. I did not wrong anyone and I am ready to move on with my life. The rest is history now as far as I am concerned. No government agent or representative approached me to return home. I came home on my own freewill. I responded to the President’s amnesty.. That’s why I am here back home. I want to thank the President for taking the bold move to grant amnesty to his opponents,” Imam Fofona added.
According to Imam Fofona, Mr. Jammeh should be hailed for spearheading such a “laudable initiative” by granting amnesty to his countrymen. He said his home return should not be misconstrued.
“Responding to President Jammeh’s amnesty should not be interpreted as if Ba Kawsu Fofona has given up his core beliefs and principles. I am still the same Ba Kawsu Fofona. Nothing is going to change from me, when it comes to the propagation of the teachings of the Koran and our Islamic faith. I did not come home because I am desperate to return. I came home in the spirit of peace, unity, and oneness. The Gambia is my home country. I will continue to perform my duties as a religious leader,” he noted.
Imam Fofona also denied reports that Chief Yaya Jarjusey facilitated his home return. He said one of the Chief’s daughters is married to him.
“Chief Yaya Jarjusey is my in-law. His daughter is married to me. I consider him as my family member. But just for the records: Chief Jarjusey never played a role towards my home return. I came home on my own. Some family members, followers and friends have in the past asked me to consider returning home. Jammeh’s amnesty facilitated my home return,” he said.
The Imam talked about the former State House Imam Alhagie Abdoulie Fatty during the interview. He said Imam Fatty was critical of him because of his uncompromising principles and he will continue to standby such principles no matter what.
Imam Ba Kawsu Fofona also reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining a good rapport with the Supreme Islamic Council. He said he is happy that he has finally reunited with his family.
Finally, Imam Ba Kawsu Fofona used the interview to thank the government of Senegal and her people for welcoming him during the time of need. He said he will continue to run his village and Islamic school in Casamance despite his home return. Ba Kawsu also thanked Gambians residing overseas for standing by him during his early days in Casamance, Senegal. He said he would ever be grateful to them for supporting him both financially and morally.
Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai