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Opinion: The Persistent Land Conflicts in the Kombo Region of The Gambia

By Omar Jatta. Nyofelleh, Kombo South:

The Persistent Land Conflicts in the Kombo Region of The Gambia

The Kombo Region of The Gambia is one of the densely populated regions of the country with lot of economic and social attractions. The region is currently occupied by almost all the ethnic groups that are found in The Gambia. The area serves as the seat of most government departments and service industrieswhich makes it very attractive to many people, and as a result, the area becomes a hotcake for almost all Gambians and non-Gambians. This has triggered most of these people into buying a piece of land in this area for residence or business purpose. The high demand for land acquisition in this area has created a lucrative market for estate dealers to make a fortune, and this has has led to the emergence of many unregulated estate agents in the area.

The traditional lands of the indigenous people which were being conserved or earmarked for other uses or for farming by the local men and women are now being tampered by the estate dealers and some unscrupulous people, leaving the indigenouspeople and farmers/gardeners with no means of farming for their survival. In fact, others would allege that some individuals at the level of authority are sometimes involved in legitimizing such dubious land deals for the sake of getting kickbacks. Little is being done whenever such matters are being taken to the local tribunals/courts, and sometimes the matter would continue indefinitely without coming to a just conclusion. At this point,some of these local people would be left with no option but to confront the estate dealers or the authorities involved, or sometimes they would confront the persons these lands weresold to in order to reclaim ownership of their customary lands without regard to the unending judicial processes as they hardly get a remedy from the judicial apparatus. This confrontational means of remedying the dispute mostly ends in chaos.

A classic example is the Faraba incident. This incident was very chaotic and very traumatic at the same time.

The government had to establish a Commission to investigate the incidentbecause of the fatality of the incident. Unfortunately, we are yet to see any meaningful justice being manifestly done after the report was being dispatched to the government for action. It is stated in a legal parlance that: ‘’…justice should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done…’’ as propounded by Lord Chief Justice Hewart in the English case of R v Sussex Justices ex parte McCarthy ([1924) 1 KB 256, [1923] All ER Rep 233). Thus, we would be grateful to see justice being manifestly done, not just arraigning the alleged perpetrators before the court with endless court adjournments. I believe such a process would hardly heal the wounds.

In addition, the land conflict continues to escalate in the region of Kombo. Gunjur and Berending had their share of the land conflict, which claimed the life of one innocent soul (may Allah have mercy on his soul). It is believed that the conflict is still alive between the two communities without any meaningful solution from the authorities yet. The people of Brufut are as well in the same boat, likewise Sukuta and other places in thesaid region.

Virtuously, it is incumbent upon any legitimate government to protect the lives and properties of its citizens as posited by many political commentators, but the people of Kombo are yet to fully realize this from the government. It is understood that the government setup commissions to look into these issues which is literally commendable, but the people are yet to see any significant outcome while land issues continue to erupt from other communities in the region.

Therefore, we are urging the government to be proactive in resolving the unending land conflicts judiciously rather than reacting to land issues whenever the damage is already being done. Being reactive rather proactive would hardly heal the wounds of the affected individuals, especially in a country that’s currently going through the process of reconciliation.

Omar Jatta

Editors Note:

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