By Mariam Sankanu
The Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (Gafna) and partners recently concluded a day long sensitization caravan on peace building and reconciliation in five communities in the Fonis.
The caravan was funded by the American Embassy Banjul, through the Julia Taft refugee Fund and jointly implemented by Gafna and Saint Joseph’s Family Farm.
Representative members of the West Coast Region Inter Party Committee, which comprises nine political parties and Nova Scotia Gambia Association including the Refugees Soforai Associations, all took part in the event.
The sensitisation activities were animated through drama performance depicting various types of conflict and mitigation measures that was facilitated by Nova Scotia Gambia Association.
Bajana, Somita, Sibanor, Bwiam and Kanfenda were the communities targeted during the tour.
Speaking at various sites, Gafna executive director Yusupha Gomez said following the 2016 Presidential and 2017 National Assembly elections, suspicions rose between some tribes and supporters of political parties in the Fonis and elsewhere.
“This has caused some internal conflicts nationwide, particularly in the communities in the Fonis where majority of the refugees reside.”
He said these conflicts resulted in some reported cases where host households including refugees have to move temporarily for “fear of attacks or reprisal”.
The aim of the sensitisation caravan was to bring lasting peace, security and development to these communities.
The West Coast Region Inter Party chairman, Bakary Saibo Sanneh, asked the audience to heed advice of party leaders, whose desire is to see a peaceful Gambia where all ethnic groups live in “cohesion and harmony”.
He stressed the need for people to unite, forget political differences and work for the development of the country.
During the Sibanor meeting, Mariama Jammeh of Foni Kandunku and Jakonba Jaiteh of Sibanor, both commended Gafna and partners for the initiative, while urging the inter party committee members to work to bring lasting peace and unity.
Lamin Sanyang of Batabutu, said radio station presenters in the country need to be “ethical enough” and preach peace and reconciliation rather than “dividing people”.
He said biased and unprofessional journalism has the potential to create chaos in the country, citing the Rwandan genocide that he said was caused by the media.
Sanyang said strong mechanisms should be put in place to regularise the radio stations which some people are using through phone calls to “castigate” people.
The Imam Ratib of Sibanor Lamin Jammeh, said politics is a tool that is meant for development. He challenged Muslims to live by the teachings of the Quran and love one another.
“As Muslims, we should care and share, and be reminded of the hereafter”.
The Chief of Foni Bintang Karanai District, Momodou Lamin Jorbateh, urged the people to forget and forgive.
“Allah is testing us. I myself, was a victim. My compound was attacked and destroyed but I have forgiven. Please let us forgive each other,” he said.