By Tabora Bojang & Fatou Joof
Officials of the physical planning department have recently embarked on a massive demolition exercise along the Bertil Harding Highway leading to Senegambia, pulling down dozens of makeshift restaurants, shops, and other financial bureaus much to the dismay of vendors.
The officials were under the protection of a group of PIU officers.
Baboucarr Lowe, a restaurant owner expressed grief, saying the department has no clear purpose to perform any meaningful development in these areas. “We are creating self-employment, they should give us a chance to go ahead or to encourage us rather than coming to destroy our places,” he lamented.
He said prior to the demolition, he was informed by one official of the department that they are only destroying shops that are within 40 meters from the center of the road.
“I felt very bad because as a Gambian I lost more than two hundred thousand dalasi on my restaurants since my first restaurant was demolished due to its closeness to the highway and then I moved inward 40 meters from the highway only for it too to be demolished. It is s very disappointing,” Lowe added.
Ebou Corr, a cosmetic and fashion designer, said: “Three years ago we were asked to move 40 meters away from the center of the main road and we moved from that place. Just last month, I went to the physical planning and spoke with one Mr. Darboe who had assured me that I am now saved hence I have moved 40 meters away from the center of the road.
“We thought that things have changed but The Gambia has a long way to go. We are not being employed by the government but we have tried to employ ourselves by opening businesses but this demolition is not supporting or encouraging the youths to be self- employed,” he decried.
A local bureau manager who wishes to remain anonymous, added: “We have been given three months notice with regard to the demolishing of the structures but due to constraints in logistics and suitability, we could not fast-track. We are not pleased with their action because it’s very embarrassing to us as a company with repute.”
Mamudu Jallow, owner of a famous peace Corp restaurant, said they were told that the reason for evicting them is that they want to make a four-lane so the traffic jam can be reduced, but was quick say the move is “hasty” because adequate time to help them efficiently look for suitable areas to realize their business is not given.
The Standard has been reliably informed that the Physical Planning has since December sent notices to the affected vendors to remove their illegal structures by themselves and this was followed by another reminder which were all ignored.