By Momodou Justice Darboe
Banjulinding women gardeners have made a distress call on the government to immediately restrain a certain Kairaba Fatty from entering the garden ‘so as to prevent the degeneration of an already festering problem into a full-blown crisis’.
The vegetable growers at the community garden said the situation there is precarious in that Kairaba Fatty is not only making life difficult for them but he is threateningly inimical to their security and safety.
Some apparently worried members of the Banjulinding Village Development Committee, Council of Elders and women gardeners on Tuesday made impassioned appeals to the authorities to create an atmosphere at the garden that would be both peaceful and safe for the women.
According to them fifteen years ago, they welcomed Kairaba Fatty to the garden after he expressed a desire to start a bee-keeping project there.
The Standard has been informed that when Kairaba communicated his plans, the gardeners were receptive and went ahead to rent out a place to him around the garden to start his business.
Interlocutors explained that he was initially charged D1000 as rent but upon negotiations, the rent was beaten down to D500. The women said he was initially punctual in paying the rent but had started to falter somewhere down the line.
“This has led to frictions between him and the women and when he was finally asked to vacate the place in 2016 because of his non-compliance of his tenancy obligations, he insisted that he was not going anywhere because the garden belongs to the government. The women approached the VDC which gave him a three-month notice to vacate but he still refused. He [Kairaba] approached O.J who wrote a letter, recommending that he be allowed to stay because Banjulinding youths were reported to have brought down the garden’s fence,” explained VDC Chair Habibu Dumbuya.
Dumbuya added that the community of Banjulinding was shocked by this directive from O.J because the problem was not about dispute over land and it [community of Banjulinding] therefore decided to take the matter to the rent tribunal in Brikama which subsequently transferred it to a magistrate’s court.
“Initially, the case was entertained by magistrate Cham but he had wanted to transfer it to the rent tribunal as it was just a rent issue. Now, the case is with another magistrate but we are not impressed with the pace at which it is progressing. And he[Kairaba] has made a habit out of coming here to provoke the women,” Dumbuya stated.
“Since 2017, the case has been dragging and he was, in the interim, dangerously threatening them despite the fact that he’s only a tenant here in the garden. Pissed off by this, the women tried to bar him from entering the garden by locking the door but he broke it. The matter was reported to the police here in Banjulinding and when they charged him, it was affray. He has not been properly charged because he should have been charged with trespass and willful damage to property,” VDC Chairman Dumbuya lamented.
Meanwhile according to one of the women gardeners, Kombeh Saidy, Kairaba Fatty did not show any sign of relenting in making life difficult for them and that the problem degenerated on 30th April, 2020 when his son pulled out a knife and he[Kairaba] a cutlass with intent to assault the women. She said one Assan Gitteh was injured in the process as he tried to defend the women from Fatty and his son.
The Standard has learnt that the Gambia government spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh was in Banjulinding to diffuse the tension and the community said it was impressed with his intervention because the violence could’ve spiraled out of control.
But Kairaba Fatty in an interview with The Standard denied that the problem between him and the women is about rent.
“It is not true that I have any problem with them over rent. They are just fabricating stories and it would interest you to know that 90% of the women in Banjulinding garden are foreigners from Casamance. They don’t know anything about the garden,” he explained.
According to him, his problem with the women started when Nawec changed the garden’s metre to cash power.
He went on: “They [women] approached me so that I can be giving them D100 on a daily basis for cash power but I told them that I was not prepared for this because I had partners. And interestingly, my partners said they were not going to pay the D100 because they owed no-one anything. So, I was giving them a monthly contribution of D500 from my own savings but they wanted to take that as a right and when they insisted, I also said I was no longer giving them anything.”
Fatty further explained “If you know my nature, you will agree that I eschew violence. I have trained many Gambian women. Why do I have to trouble anyone? We’re in a civilized world. Let them level all types of allegations against me but this time around, I want my case to be heard in court. They think I’m a coward but we will get to the bottom of this matter. I was only in the garden to rescue my son from being mobbed by the women and they attacked me in the process.”
However, Modou Badjie of Banjulinding Council of Elders said they want Kairaba Fatty to vacate the garden. “We urgently need this so that our women can enjoy peace. Women are not feeling safe in the garden because he is always threatening them,” Badjie added.
Yama Badjie, one of the women working in the garden, appealed: “We want the government to allocate him a place elsewhere because this garden is the source of our income as Banjulinding has no wetlands, sea and we don’t have diamond in The Gambia. This garden is where we depend on for our livelihoods. And therefore, we want the government to make it safe for us.”