Editorial: Faraba incident and lessons for Gambia government
The recent unrest in Faraba village involving civilians demonstrating against environmental exploitation, leading to three deaths is unfortunate and tragic. Yet it represents a unique learning opportunity for The Gambia government to draw lessons on how they could deal with crisis. The tragedy that unfolded in Faraba is a blot on the copy books of the new administration who had been trying to eschew the governance deficiencies and mis-steps of the erstwhile regime of president Jammeh.
President Barrow addresses Faraba community on Friday as he seek to make peace with the community The signs for what was to come in Faraba with the shooting death of innocent civilians had been there for more than a month. Before resorting to protests, the villagers had used every and any peaceful means at their disposal, but were given the short shrift.
Their livelihoods and environment continued to be exploited with the connivance of ruthless businessman Ansumana Marena better known as Julakay and the corrupt security forces .
The community of Gunjur similarity sought redress through the courts for the environmental degradation caused by Golden Lead after all efforts of dialogue failed. The civil lawsuit filed against the company over a year ago, could not proceed in the courts. Instead of siding with defenseless and helpless civilians of Faraba, the security forces came out swinging in favour of the villain killing three young people. In the ensuing furor and outrage, President Adama Barrow needed all of 36 hours before he could address the issue from a prepared statement. Scalded from the outrage, police Chief Kinteh offered his resignation which was accepted, although he denied giving the order to shoot civilians. Whether he gave orders or not, the fatalities in Faraba exposed a glaring error of leadership in The Gambia government and security services. It didn’t have to take three deaths for the president of The Gambia to address burning issues around environmental exploitation in Gunjur, Sanyang, Kartong and Faraba. The smoldering embers of disenchantment against environmental destruction must be doused with pre-emptive measures of dialogue and reconciliation.
As recent as yesterday, the community of Gunjur are complaining about yet another foul stench coming from the Golden Lead plant. A recent test carried out on the waters exposed to the Fishmeal processing plant’s waste waters, and samples taken from Kotu waste treatment plant following the Golden Lead waste disposal activities there showed high levels of phosphate in the water samples. This is contrary to the announcement by government that tests carried out in labs in Gambia and Senegal showed the waste water was harmless. The test results of which were never published.
As if the foul stench that the community of Gunjur continue to suffer from was not bad enough, one of the leading advocates for a a clean and eco-friendly environment Omar A J Saho’s family was alledgedly visited by some plain clothed officers who searched his house, ransacking it in the process.
This begs the question: Is The Gambia government aware of the intimidation and harassment being meted out on environmental activists who are advocating for respect and protection of their environment? Or is the government implicit in these nefarious actions of the agents of the security forces? Whatever the answer, these actions are reminiscent of the brutal dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh. Gambians have paid a hefty price to end that repressive government and will never allow a return to 22 years of oppression for the interest of an individual.
How long would the government have to wait until the community of Gunjur says enough is enough as one concerned commentator aptly puts it:
“Do not sit until another tragedy happen again, for once put the interest of the people first. God forbid, this could happen in Gunjur, sanyang, Kartong etc. Listen to the cry of the citizens and value our lives”
President Barrow assured the Faraba community of his commitment to justice and accountability by saying this:
“I reaffirmed my promise and government's commitment to ensure accountability and justice. I used the opportunity to urge all and sundry to be law abiding and desist from violence at all times.”
We hope that the president takes seriously, the concerns of the coastal settlements of Kartong, Gunjur and Sanyang with regards to the complains of environmental pollution and degradation of these communities and take appropriate actions to address these concerns.