Gambia: Human Rights Commission Calls for Swift Action to Address URR Caste System
The National Human Rights Commission has called on the government on Monday to take urgent action to address the growing caste system conflicts in the Upper River Region and other parts of The Gambia.
The Commission says it is extremely concerned about the alleged fine, and in lieu banishment, imposed on one Musa Trawally by the Alkalo of Garawol Village in the Upper River Region (URR) for leading a congregational prayers on Tobaski Day.
“Equally disconcerting and disturbing have been allegations of assault and discriminatory practices against this same group of people within the Sarahuleh communities in the Region.”
“Discriminatory practices and incidences within identified communities in URR have come to the attention of the Commission which it finds abhorrent to the dignity and person of the affected people, who are commonly referred to by the derogatory term “slaves” mostly by those who regard themselves as ‘nobles’.
The Commission condemns in the strongest terms all acts of human rights violations and discrimination against the people affected.
NHRC added that discrimination of any type or nature, including one based on caste, has no place in a civilized society and certainly not in The Gambia where the 1997 Constitution accords every citizen and resident equal rights and protection and a free and dignified life.
“Since October 2019 to date, NHRC has conducted two fact-finding missions to the communities of Diabugu, Koina and Garawol which revealed the existence of the caste system in these communities and that of a long-standing traditional practice that subjects ‘slaves’ to tedious, and sometimes degrading, jobs for their ‘masters’ or ‘nobles. In extreme cases, the affected group has reported physical attacks on some of their members.”
Following the 2019 fact-finding mission, NHRC reported its findings through its annual report and made recommendations to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights on medium- and long-term solutions to ending this issue.
The Commission requests the government to urgently set up a task force comprising of relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Ministry of Interior, representatives of the Supreme Islamic Council, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights and the NHRC to look into the current troubles in the area and to also examine and implement the recommendations proposed by the NHRC to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Huma Rights.
“The NHRC reiterates that discrimination and discriminatory practices based on tribe, religion, language or other statuses, are illegal and unacceptable and urges people to treat each other in a dignified, respectable manner which also recognised the humanity of all.
“NHRC equally urges the Government and relevant authorities to take swift and permanent actions to eradicate the caste system and other discriminatory practices which dehumanise people in The Gambia.”