12 July 2018

Gambia: At the Faraba Banta Commission - More Witnesses, Chief of Kombo East Appear

More witnesses appeared at the Commission set by the President of the Republic, to inquire into the Faraba Banta incident. At yesterday's sitting of the 11th of July 2018, another two witnesses including the Chief of Kombo East, testified before the Commission, to say what the know before, during and after the unfortunate incident.

Nfally Saidykhan in his testimony said during the incident, PIU officers used life round of ammunition and tear gas, to suppress the demonstration; that in the process, Pa Jammeh who was shot in the thigh, was eventually retrieved by the youth and taken to the nearest hospital; that shortly afterwards, the firing stopped because the PIU ran-out of ammunition; that there were approximately fifteen to twenty PIU officers who fired at the rioters.

Saidykhan added that when the villagers started stoning, the PIU officers took cover behind a Caterpillar; that he did not take part in the stoning but that as the stoning continued, the PIU officers could not sustain their defence from the villagers who outnumbered them; that they retreated for about 200mtrs; that during the stone throwing between the demonstrators and the Officers, one Dawda Jawara Daffeh, sustained serious injury. Saidykhan said they were later notified by some villagers to retreat because there was another PIU reinforcement on the way and should avoid being surrounded.

Saidykhan continued, that he was not aware of the riot but came to realize it when the PIU Officers fired bullets and he ran to see what was happening but later left for home; that whilst at home, he continue to hear the sounds of gunshots.

Saidykhan said prior to the incident in 2017, the VDC summoned a meeting where villagers were briefed regarding a meeting they had with the former IGP, that Julakay will mine sand at Faraba, because he has been issued a license that the VDC members did not concur because the villagers did not consent to the words of the IGP; that the mining in the area mentioned, will destroy the structure of their gardens and rice fields; that, there is a place called "kenye-dinka", Mandinka word for sand hole, that was given to Julakay for mining; that this is the place used by villagers to mine sand to build their houses, without permission or pay, for mining.

Saidykhan concludes that the relationship between the Alkalo, the VDC and villagers, was cordial until June 18th 2018.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Kombo East Babucarr Sanyang, who resides in Faraba, testified before the Commission. According to the Chief, he knows nothing about how Julakay obtained his documents to mine in the area; that there was a day when Jung Conteh came to his house with Julakay, to pay him a visit and to inform him about the latter's license to mi ne sand in Faraba Banta; that this was in 2017 but could not remember the month; that his response to Julakay was "it's okay hence it's the government that issued you with a license to mine", adding that the VDC was in argument with the Alkalo at one time, regarding the issue of Julakay and he (the Alkalo), called both parties to remedy the dispute by bringing it to the attention of the Governor of West Coast Region, so that he can talk to the VDC regarding the sand mining. Chief Sanyang said afterwards the governor called him and told him that he met the VDC but will get back to him (Chief).

Chief Sanyang testified, that he was once called by the permanent secretary at the ministry of local government in the presence of the former IGP, a representative from the Geology department and Council of elders of Faraba Banta; that during the meeting, they were told by the permanent secretary that they will send a team to see the place; that the Alkalo never told him how Julakay obtained his mining license; that on the 18th of June, whilst he was standing under his veranda, he saw a group of young men coming towards his house; that he ran to lock himself in his bedroom; that the youth entered his house and started destroying his furniture including everything they found in his longue; that after they left, he told his family to leave for Brusubi; that after a few days, he came back just to found out that everything in his house was taken out to the Bantaba and set ablaze; that the destroyed items is equivalent to D375, 000.00.

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