An unprecedented explosive riot gripped the town of Farato yesterday as protesters went on the rampage burning a cars and stoning police officers, in protest over a demolition exercise on a disputed land.
The disputed land, between Bafulotto and Farato, is said to be hosting some 2000 compounds some of them completed or in advance stage of construction.
According to the residents, people have been living on the land for 15 years now and any destruction of the properties could result in millions of dalasi of life-time savings. According to reports from the village, the skirmishes occurred after a demolition squad escorted by police started bulldozing fences at the settlement.
A police source told The Standard that personnel from the police were executing a request to provide security for the demolition team from the department of Physical Planning. Other reports said the demolition squad, accompanied by at least three people claiming ownership of the land, was executing an order after residents defied many notices to quit or stop building structures on the disputed land.
Pictures and videos of the chaotic scene went viral on social media throughout yesterday attracting fear and condemnation in many quarters. “I can’t believe this is happening in the Gambia. Democracy does not mean irresponsibility,” one commentator said on Facebook.
Commuters who passed the scene spoke of great tension and a potentially explosive situation. “I was shocked to see such scenes in The Gambia,” said one passer-by. The majority of the commentators on the incident called on the government to be strict and uncompromising with unlawful behavior to stem “this newfound irresponsible behavior in the name of democracy. Whether or not the protesters have good reason to protest is overshadowed by the violent nature of their protest,” said a commentator on facebook.
Another one posted: “The Farato incident goes to confirm that land administration is a time bomb ready to be detonated. Private estate developers take community lands. These estate developers are the rich and powerful making millions of our community lands and they are ready to pay corrupt court system to demolish settlements. Land administration in Kombo is in disarray” Alagie Bah, said.
Police has confirmed that there ere some arrests.