By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
A pickup full of Police Officers from Senegambia Police Station had a standoff with the owners of the former Anti-Crime Unit (ACU) Headquarters in Bijilo on October 4th 2021. After representatives of Global Homes of Medical Missions (GHOMM) held a press conference at the premises of the former Anti-Crime Unit, a Police Officer named Bojang attempted to disperse a gathering of owners and media personnel from the premises. After the press conference a standoff ensued between the Police and the owners, however, this story starts before the standoff.
Press Conference Inside Former Anti-Crime Unit Headquarters
Before the standoff, three representatives of GHOMM held a press conference with the media about their property which was previously occupied by the Gambia Police Force’s, Anti-Crime Unit.
During the press conference held inside the disputed land, Ms Nenneh Freda Gomez, the Country Coordinator of GHOMM told the media that they were the rightful owner of the land and introduced Dr Gabou Mendy to make some remarks. Dr Mendy, a US-based Gambian Doctor noted that GHOMM acquired the property in 2007. According to Dr Mendy “the structure [ACU Office] that you see behind us was built in 2007 – 2008, it was inaugurated and [medical] services started and was ongoing. It is now left inoperable”.
Before the press conference, our reporter observed the condition of the building which was clearly vandalised. Doors and windows were removed, electric sockets, light bulb holders, fans and all other electronics were removed. “Today was an idea of nothing other than taking possession of what is rightfully ours. Proven in the courts with two judgements. Both at the Kanifing Court in 2019 and also at the High Court in 2020” said Dr Mendy.
Our reporter was informed that former President Yahya Jammeh had seized the property from GHOMM in 2010. The property was occupied by the Green Boys, a civilian vigilante group associated with the former President and the Security Apparatus. When the change of Government occurred in 2016/2017 the Anti-Crime Unit was instituted and allocated the premises by the Government of President Adama Barrow in 2018. Since then the owners pursued two judgements from Kanifing Magistrates Court and the High Court which they showed to members of the media and Security Officers present proving their ownership of the disputed property.
According to Dr Mendy, GHOMM and its partners “Andandorr” GAP Health, HHc and NMS Infrastructure Ltd intend to rebuild the hospital and provide medical services to the public. However, to do this they need possession of their property. “Everything starts with a step and this step is possession of the property that’s rightfully ours,” said Dr Mendy.
It’s understood that the Government has an interest in the property and intends to build a Hotel at the premises for the upcoming Organisation of Islamic Countries Summit in 2022. However, the owners say they haven’t been approached by the Government in this regard.
Police Standoff with GHOMM Owners
As soon as the press conference concluded a Police Officer named Bojang approached the owners and asked them to vacate the property. A representative from the Sheriff’s Office named Mr Modou Musa Touray attempted to mediate between Police Officer Bojang and the owners who were adamant that they would not vacate the property.
Mediation continued as instructions allegedly from the Assistant Inspector General of Police ordered the owners to leave because they were not given prior notice. After series of phone calls and mediation, Mr Touray from the Sheriff’s Office advised the owners to leave and seek a Contempt of Court Order to force their way back into the property. According to Mr Touray, the owners should leave because the Police were not willing to cooperate and effect the eviction notice. However, the owners were not willing to vacate the property resulting in a standoff.
The standoff intensified minutes later when a white pick up full of Police Officers on a vehicle marked “GT Board TSU 2” drove into the premises and Police Officers disembarked demanding cameras to be switched off. Media personnel resisted and kept recording as another round of mediation commenced when the Police Team Leader named Inspector Bah approached Dr Mendy who showed legal documents proving ownership of the property.
Speaking to Gainako Online News during the confrontation Ms Gomez said “they just arrived after we had finished our press conference. The team leader said he’s got authority from his boss ASP Jaiteh who also got directives from the authorities. But they were not able to tell us who are these authorities that gave the directives to come and ask us out of our property.”
Refusing to vacate the property Ms Gomez explained that after consulting their Lawyer, they were “advised that the Sheriff came and gave us permission and the Sheriff has left. This is our property; it is under our possession and we should not be under no authority unless and until somebody comes and shows us something from the court asking us to leave. They [Police] insisting that we need to leave or we need to go with them to Senegambia Police station to find out.”
After more mediation between the owners and the group of Police Officers, Inspector Bah received a phone call from his superiors and informed the gathering that “now you can carry on what you’re doing, I received a call that the Sheriff’s Division that gave you authority to do what you’re doing”. Inspector Bah also informed owners present that they no longer need to report to Senegambia Police Station.
After the crowd had dispersed and the situation had calmed down Gainako was informed that the owners have still not been granted permission to access their property with their construction material to commence works. Gainako had streamed the press conference and the standoff between Police and the owners on Facebook live which can be viewed below.
Gainako’s first publication on the land dispute confirmed that the Anti-Crime Unit has moved from Bijilo to Police Training School next to the Airport. In this publication, Gainako reported that the owners were prevented from entering their property with construction material on Thursday 30th September 2021.