Dear Editor and decent people of the world, my sleep last night was interrupted by sad messages from the heart of provincial Gambia on abuse of office and corruption.
The continuing marginalization of Sotuma Sere Community, 360 kilometres from Banjul, reached another climax this week when the Governor of the URR (Upper River Region) Omar Khan arrested youths of my community for protesting against corruption, unfair extra-judicial ruling and land grabbing.
During my first working visit in The Gambia last November, I wrote about a troublesome land dispute between Sotuma Sere and its neighbours that the authorities are underrating.
For over three (3) consecutive years, the people of Sotuma Sere patiently followed the former Jimara Chief Hagie Kule Camara but he was dragging his feet over it. The APRC National Assembly Member (NAM) for Jimara Habiboulie Jawo said land disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the chief and has seen been inactive in finding alternative solutions. He feels he will lose his job if he fights hard for the people who voted him into the National Assembly since President Jammeh has the powers to dissolve Parliament or dismiss a NAM and call for re-election anytime he desires!
With the inauguration of the new Jimara Chief Kawu Alhagie Banta Tunkara, the people of Sotuma Sere made another attempt for a peaceful solution towards reclaiming their ancestral land from the land grabbers and intruders. They were told that the new chief cannot inherit open cases of the former chief. I told them this was a big lie and they should keep trying.
All of a sudden and without proper study of the history or genesis of the problem, the Governor of URR Omar Khan who is reportedly bought by the land grabbers, arrested and detained some Sotuma Sere youths who protested against marginalization, corrupt ruling and unfair treatment.
If I were in Gambia, I would have also been arrested again! It can be recalled that I was chosen by my Sotuma Sere community to speak on the endless injustices against our people at the Gambissara meeting of the last Presidential Dialogue With the People’s Tour but I was summarily arrested over supposed craziness. Some people would not like their nefarious activities to be exposed before President Jammeh!
Sotuma Sere’s strategic location makes is a takeover candidate by land grabbers and speculators. It has a population of about 2000 (two thousand), the ones living in the Diaspora not counted. Sotuma was founded in 1933 by Noble Sarahulleh Sufi mystique Fodie Sere Sankanu who was earlier residing at Gambissara.
Since President Jammeh was given land at an enviable location in the village more people have been targeting the place and using corrupt regional politicians and local government officials to achieve their aims.
Meanwhile, one of the arrested youths MUSA NYUMA SANKANU can be reached at:+2206197526 or +2206936732 or +2209936732 for more details. The URR Governor Omar Khan can be phoned on +2207796923 or +2209998932. The Chief of Jimara Banta Tunkara is available on +2207122073. Habiboulie Jawo the Jimara NAM is on these mobile phone numbers +2206499453 or+2207654791.
Governor Omar Khan is also taking advantage of the ignorance of the new Jimara Chief Banta Tunkara who is just learning about his new job. Tunkara spent over 20 years in Egypt and since his return has been teaching at an Islamic school in Gambissara. He will therefore not understand the dirty politics and nasty corruption with abuse of power overnight. He also relies on people who can read and write in English and can unscrupulously forge documents and signatures or misinterpret the Local Government Act without him suspecting.
If the Jammeh Government lets the land grabbers get away with Sotuma Sere land, his government will be playing with fire. Land disputes are everywhere in The Gambia and so far those who buy the ears of the local government officials and politicians get the backings of the sharks within the inner circles of power. The local governance crisis in URR that made the ruling APRC party lose the Basse National Assembly seat in the last election is not over though things look calm on the surface.
URR is not stable. During my last stay there people repeatedly told me „Omar Khan is just there because he is backed by VP Isatou Njie Saidy…“ If I should write about the conversations and the corrupt relationship between Omar Khan and former chief Hagie Kule Camara, he will be sent on his long overdue retirement as I would not be sure if VP Njie Saidy would like to risk her own privileges just to keep him (Governor Khan) on the job with all the damages he caused and continues to cause the APRC or The Government.
Please, help a marginalized community get a chance to be heard or receive justice over its legitimately inherited communal land that is being snatched away from its children.