The standoff between the people of Bakoteh, Manjai Kunda and the environs and the agents of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) shows that something needs to be done urgently. The background of this is that the people of the area were not happy with the way waste was being dumped in their neighbourhood without the hygiene and sanitation of the people kept in mind.
There was a huge health hazard such as chronic respiratory illnesses due to the constant air pollution. Added to that was the foul smell they had to contend with constantly. Calls were repeatedly made for something to be done by the authorities but there were no headways in that aspect. The residents of the area therefore took it upon themselves to stop the dumping in their area.
However, when the lack of a place to dump the waste became a problem; and, the streets and compounds started being filled with waste. Thus, the government ordered a reopening of the Bakoteh Dumpsite. This did not go down well with the youth of the area thus resulting in a standoff. The two sides must understand that this has become a national health issue.
Both sides must make conscious efforts to come to terms and resolve this matter amicably in a way that will protect the health of the nation. Government should assure the people of the area, and indeed the whole nation, that they have proper plans to solve the problem of waste management in the long term. When the people of Bakoteh and the environs are assured that the problem will be solved as soon as possible, they will allow the dumpsite to be reopened, temporarily.
The people living around the dumpsite; however, have a genuine cause for concern and they should not just be dismissed like that. The government must recognize that what they are calling for is genuine and that they deserve to be heard. In a democracy, the people have a right to pursue the government to resolve their legitimate concerns. At this point in time though, the blame game will not solve the problem. What needs to be done is to find a short term solution with a view to resolving the current crisis of waste in the country. Otherwise, we run the risk of epidemics as we are in the rainy season.
Dialogue is therefore the way forward. The people in a country have the right to demand that government solves their genuine and legitimate concerns, but they also have the responsibility to obey legal orders from the government. If the government shows that they are willing to solve the problem and that they are looking ways of resolving the issue in a proper manner but wish to reopen the site for the mean time the people of the area should work with the authorities to prevent any further escalation of the situation.
The Wolofs say ‘Reeroo amut nyaaka waxtaan moo am’. Let us use dialogue to resolve this and any other issues that might arise. This will enable us maintain our peace and trn agreement which is most beneficial to all Gambians.