By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT and Yusupha Jobe
Security Officers of the Anti-Crime Unit (ACU) have arrested almost 40 youth at Sanyang after last week’s mob attack which burnt down Sanyang Police Station and sections of Nessim Fishmeal Factory, following the killing of a Sanyang local by an alleged Senegalese national. It’s alleged that the alleged “killer” worked at the Chinese owned Nessim Fishmeal Factory which has been polluting the local coastal environment of Sanyang.
According to a report published by Greenpeace titled A Waste of Fish, “the over-exploitation of small pelagic fish in Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia is causing serious environmental and socio-economic impacts”. A more recent publication from the Environmental watchdog, Greenpeace, highlights that “almost one in three Gambians are vulnerable to food insecurity and fish contributes over half of the total animal protein intake.”
Faraba Banta Commission Report Ignored?
A statement issued on social media by prominent human rights advocate, Madi Jorbateh, accused security officers of heavy-handedness while highlighting “arrest and prosecution will not address the core of the problem in Sanyang. Since the Faraba incident two years ago, the Commission of Inquiry report predicted this kind of incidents erupting in coastal towns if necessary actions are not taken to address issues of land and natural resources”.
The Faraba Banta Commission Report contains a section titled “Preventing the occurrence of similar incidents in other parts of the country”. It details the exchanges between residents of Sanyang and the Commission which predicted a similar occurrence of Faraba Banta when at least two young people were killed after Security Officers opened fire on rioters who allegedly burnt down sand mining plant. The report highlights that “the incident that occurred in Faraba Banta can also happen in other parts of the country if the concerns about the environment and land ownership and land use are not addressed within the affected communities.”
In almost prophetic style the report highlighted that “the recent incidents in Gunjur and Sanyang Fishmeal factories operated by Chinese owned companies almost erupted into a violent confrontation because of issues surrounding environmental pollution which if not properly addressed, will lead to public unrest and possible violent confrontation”.
Most importantly, contrary to the wave of arrests taking place the report predicts that “the use of the Police and PIU Officers to enforce the mining rights of licence holders and investors when there are unresolved conflicts between the communities and the licence holders, is a recipe for violence as was the case in Faraba Banta.”
Weekend of Arrests
According to our source, a wave of arrests took place over the weekend of Friday 19th to Sunday 21st March 2021 when ACU Officers started arresting young people indiscriminately on the street and inside their compounds. It must be noted that a protest ensued on Monday 15th March 2021 when youth in Sanyang started burning down a police station, a fishmeal plant, boats and fishing nets belonging to Senegalese nationals residing in Sanyang.
On Friday 19th March 2021 the National Youth Council visited the community youths in order to resolve the problem in a meeting held at the village centre were youths were urged to calm down and to allow the law to take its cause.
Speaking to Gainako News, environmental youth leader and Sanyang resident, Alieu Bayo said that the arrests that occurred in his compounds are a violation of his rights and warned that the continued intimidation of Sanyang youths could result in another unrest in the village.
“How can you meet people on the streets and start arresting them without any verification. Maybe some of those arrested and taken by the Anti-Crime are innocent. So it’s illegal and some of us were taken away from our compounds at night” he said.
“I can inform you that since Friday to Sunday [19th to 21st] the arrest of young people has continued in the community by the police Anti-Crime Unit where almost 40 young people have been apprehended by the police anti-crime unit” he explained. In his view “this has to stop to avoid any possible violence in the community. Right now some of us are not even comfortable sleeping in our homes,” he warned.
In his view “the killing of a Gambian by a Senegalese citizen seen not to concern the government of President Adama Barrow adding that atrocities committed by Senegalese nationals ranging from stealing and rape have rendered unsafe environment for the native”.
Gainako called the Gambia Police Force Public Relations Officer, ASP Lamin Njie several times prior to publication, however, he failed to respond.