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Open Letter to Hon Ousainou Darboe: The Intolerable Kombo Lands Situation

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

14 July 2020 | DF Manneh

Dear Hon Ousainou Darboe,

Re: The Intolerable Kombo Lands State of Affairs

I write to you as a Kombo native; and as a Gambian, to express my concern at the continuing expropriation of customary lands. The gravity of the crisis is causing a sense of insecurity in Kombo’s traditional landowners.

Mr Darboe, as leader of the nation’s largest political party; with a likelihood of forming the next government, I would hope your party shares in these worries. Uniquely, unlike other party leaders, you have first-hand knowledge of the acute nature of Kombo Lands issues—an experience gained from years of legal representation in land-related lawsuits.

Scrutiny is a certainty when a person of your political prominence weighs in on a vexing national socio-political matter. Thus, I, and I suppose many others, watched your interview on 20th June 2020, on UDP TV YouTube channelwith alertness. The expression of your learned opinion was remarkable. And doubtless, the sentiment behind the gesture was genuine and honourable.

Mr Darboe, of even greater significance, was your affirmation that administrations serially enabled the legal opportunism the scandalous State Lands Act enabled. Land laws crafted to lack clarity increased the capacity for unscrupulous officials to execute the said laws with calculated misreading & misinterpretation. The consequence: a devastating assault on Kombonkas’ inheritance.

Your revelation about the discriminatory application of the land laws confirmed what many know. But it was refreshing to hear it from a man of your legal repute. Brufut Kajarbang and Yundum Yarambamba cases are notorious examples. The resulting effect created gross economic disparities between the customary landowners and a private estate developer.

The recent upheaval in Sukuta Salagi illustrated a tipping point and a sampler of what could come. I am heartened to notice you did not dismiss the development as mere alarmist fussing. The Kombo Lands issue deserves our undivided attention. At this sensitive juncture, all responsible Gambians ought to spare no effort in addressing issues that inflame emotions and create intercommunal discord. It would be a severe dereliction of duty to stand by whilst divisive legacies engineered by previous governments continue to wreak havoc on the nation’s social fabric.