A regional association set up for the development of the region of Kombo has called on the authorities to act in order to prevent the escalation or recurrence of recent deadly disputes over land in the region.
Kombo, the most attractive region for estate agencies in particular, has been experiencing communal and other clashes over land. Last month, a dispute between Gunjur and Berending in Kombo South over land resulted to the death of one person and the injury of many others. In June 2018, two people were killed and many others seriously injured in Faraba Banta, Kombo East during a confrontation between protesters and members of the Gambia Police Force over sand exploitation.
Disturbed and concerned about the situation, the Kombo Yiriwa Kafo or K.K.Y (association for the development of Kombo) comprising of indigenes of the region, made a list of recommendations for the government’s consideration to address land use and management issues in the region.
The recommendations included the ban on the allocation of communal land to private investors without the consent of the owners. It also called for the immediate execution of the court ruling in the Gunjur/Berending case.
“Court records show that the matter was brought before Kombo South District Tribunal in June 1988 which ruled in favor of Jammeh Kunda family of Gunjur, the plaintiffs,” KYK wrote in a statement. “From that time onwards, several court appeals had been made by the defendants, Sanyang Kunda family of Berending up to 2016 when the Honourable Chief Justice finally upheld the decision and served all occupants to vacate the said land or face forceful eviction. This order has not been executed.” The Chronicle has obtained a copy of the purported 2016 court ruling.
KYK called for all land matters to be treated with greater sense of urgency and prudence in order to avert delayed justice. It also recommended that all forest reserves, such as the Nyambai Forest in Brikama and those in Salagi and Kafuta remain as such and must not be designated for any other purpose, for the government to ensure greater oversight of real estate agents, among others.
“We rather recommend that these said forests be restored or rejuvenated in appreciation of their paramount importance to the climate and ecosystem of this region.”
On the issue of sand mining, KYK called on the government to come up with appropriate and applicable policies to control sand mining, in order to mitigate its impact on the environment and engender the benefit of adjacent communities.
In September 2018, members of the Land Commission were sworn in at State House with a mandate to look into all land matters in the country. “While we appreciate the establishment of the commission by the government, we urge the Commission to endeavor to encourage participation of all stakeholders, especially customary land owners in its attempt to address land issues,” KYK said.
Land has always been at the centre of communal disputes in many regions of Kombo largely due to increase in population within the area, compounded by upsurge of real estate agencies and poor land administration, among others. Often times, the individuals or families who own lands voluntarily sell them. But according to the Chairman of KYK, Alhajie Conteh, these individuals and families have been pushed into selling lands.
“We have no choice. We have to sell our lands because if we don’t do so, the state will seize it and we will lose everything and this will have adverse effect on our generations to come. Many lands here are seized from the indigenes by the state and later sold to individuals whose documentations are not even correct.”
The association also delved into environmental issues affecting Kombo, citing sand mining and indiscriminate dumping of garbage.
“We plan to embark on environment caravan tour. This will take us to specific villages to raise awareness on some of the environmental issues around them. These include the issue of mining in lowland areas, especially the issue of gravel mining that are located very close to our forests and sand mining that are close to women gardens,” said Foday Bojang, an environmental focal point of KYK and former Director General of the Forestry Department.
He warned communities “not to be bamboozled by unscrupulous individuals” who would cover under the disguise of state officials and go to communities on the pretext that it’s government that needs lands.
“As a former director of forestry, I know there are people who wave permits in front of Alkalos (village heads) by claiming that such permits are from forestry whilst in actual fact they are not. They take advantage of the literacy level of our Alkalos by presenting past permits to destroy the forest,” Bojang revealed secrets implore by unscrupulous people bent on destroying the forest.
KYK was set up in 2017 with the primary aim and objective of improving the livelihood of the citizens and residents of Kombo through human resource development, environmental protection and preservation, enhanced food production and economic security, among other activities.