10 July 2017

Gambia: Tension Diffuses At Bakoteh/Manjai Dump Site After Commotion and Scuffles

Tension diffused at the Bakoteh/Manjai Dumpsite yesterday late in the afternoon after commotion and scuffles during a long standoff resulting in arrests and protestors.

Halifa Sallah, the member for Serrekunda arrived at the scene yesterday afternoon in the midst of tension and spoke to the youths of the communities who were protesting. He listened to them as they explained their grievances and then counselled them. They agreed not to pursue a hardened position but to dialogue objectively with the authorities to come up with a workable solution. Halifa also spoke to the police on the ground who showed willingness to cooperate. The six youths arrested in connection with the incident were soon released. Foroyaa has learnt that efforts are being made to facilitate dialogue between the communities and the authorities.

The communities of Manjai and Bakoteh have for some months refused the dumping of solid waste at the Bakoteh/Manjai Dumpsite. On Saturday an attempt to dump waste collected from Serrekunda market after a 'set-settal' (general cleansing up) exercise resulted to a commotion due to refusal by the inhabitants of Manjai and Bakoteh.

Vehicles parked with rubbish were directed to dump the waste at the Manjai/Bakoteh dumpsite. There were more than twelve (12) loaded trucks with garbage that headed towards the Manjai/Bakoteh dump site but they were confronted by the residents of Manjai and Bakoteh who blockaded them from dumping at the site.

The claim of residents is that they've called for dialogue on the future of the dumpsite with government on several occasions, to no avail. They also said they cast their votes on December 1, 2016 for change of leadership for an administration that will work to improve their welfare, but not an administration that will seize their rights and forget about them. They lamented the adverse health problems posed by the dumpsite.

The angry people who attempted to dump the garbage at the dumpsite and were denied, loaded three trucks, drove inside the KMC head office and dumped the garbage at the Lord Mayor's office. Some dumped the waste along Sayerr Avenue in Serrunda. When asked their reasons for doing such, they said it was to show their dissatisfaction with the mayor.

A discussion took place between the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mai Ahmed Fatty and the spokesperson and resident of the area Rohey Njie but without success. A meeting between Mr Fatty and representatives of the communities took place at KMC on Saturday but this was again unsuccessful.

After the unsuccessful meeting personnel of the police intervention unit were ordered to cordon off the area with some stationed at the dumpsite. They were armed with rifles and riot gears. This stand-off continued until Sunday when residents woke up to discover that waste was dumped at the dumpsite. Tear gas canisters were fired, stones were thrown and arrests were effected. As the day progressed the tension built up.

The Bakoteh/Manjai dumpsite has been the only dumpsite in the KMC for more than 2 decades. The location of the dumpsite is directly opposite the SOS Children's Village and within the dense residential communities of Bakoteh and Manjai kunda. The residents said the effects of the dumpsite poses serious health threats to their health and it has rendered their water non portable. According to them the water cannot be used for anything because of pollution of the underground water, caused by the site; that their fruit trees such as mangoes and oranges, have been rendered useless because no one can eat them.

The Mayor of the Municipality, Mayor Yankuba Colley, said the KMC has never called for the closure of the dumpsite and calls on government to come to their aid. He said he has been engaging government to intervene through dialogue with the residents of Manjai and Bakoteh over the issue of the dumpsite.

This reporter spoke to the Secretary General of the Conflict Resolution Foundation, Mr. Muhammed Abudul Karim Touray, who said the matter is beyond politics and the authorities need to engage the residents within the dumpsite, to some serious dialogue. He said the effects of the pollution caused by the dumpsite can be deadly. He said Government needs to learn crisis management systems to be able to bring in tangible solution in difficult times.

Minister Fatty said they are have been invited by KMC who has the primary responsibility to solve the situation over decades. The Interior Minister in his bold state said 'we have an immediate task at hand and this immediate task will be executed looking at the best interest of not only the community of Bakoteh but all Gambians and we are going to implement that," he said.

On Sunday when the chaos was intense, Honourable Ousman Sillah, National Assembly Member for Banjul North came there to persuade the Manjai/Bakoteh rioters to quell the situation. He spoke to them for the need to maintain peace and tranquility and pleaded to them to stay away from violence.

See next edition for what Halifa Sallah said in counseling the youths at the dumpsite.


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