The old Fort of James Island, renamed Kunta Kinteh Island located in Juffureh, is one of the last pieces that remind us of the inhuman slave trade in Africa. Once a home for the British colonial administration, it was the last bit of the Gambian soil slaves saw before being transported to the Americas by the transatlantic slave ships.
This island at the mouth of the Gambia River was a major way point of the transatlantic slave trade. The kidnapped Africans were mercilessly imprisoned on the island, ahead of being forcibly transported to the Americas as slaves.
Kunta Kinta Island was one time one of the biggest tourist attractions in The Gambia. But today it’s shrinking due to coastal erosion and the effects of climate change and has drastically reduced in size as compared to its initial structure as a trading post of slaves during the colonial era.
“The island would be no more in 20-30 years time if the government does not develop mechanisms to maintain it,” said tour guide Kemo Fatty. “This place reminds us of our past and we need to share this history to the unborn generation. We owe it to them. The future needs to know about our great Kunta Kinteh and how he resisted the colonial masters when they captured him and others as slaves, how our forefathers were separated from their islands and forced to work in hard labor.”
According to Fatty, the government is aware of the problem eating the island away, but is paying little attention to mitigate. “I believe they need to get experts to do vulnerability assessments and have defense systems installed. It is the responsibility of the government to conserve the place,” he said.
Njie Cham, the Proprietor of Albreda Lodge urged the government to utilize the best practices and experiences to develop the island as a tourist attraction site again.
“If you go to Senegal, you would see that Goree Island had the same problem but the government was able to build structures to save the island from shrinking,” he told The Chronicle.
“The government should endeavor to use Kunta Kinteh Island to share our cultural heritage. The only time the government invests in this place is during the Roots Festival which is just a day’s event”
“The authorities are already aware of the problems. They should stop organizing workshops to talk about the same issues and invest in developing the infrastructure and poor condition of Albreda”, he lamented.