By Momodou Darboe
Representatives of Jobe Kunda family in Serekunda and the Jatta Kunda clan in Busumbala have resolved to take the path of negotiations to forestall mass property damage in an area at the centre of a dispute between them.
The Ministry of Local Government and Lands has been engaged in finding durable and amicable solution to the long-standing conflict and on Monday, it convened a press briefing at its conference hall in Quadrangle to enlighten the larger public about the dispute resolution mechanism chosen by the disputants.
The land in dispute previously measured 860mx580mx 650m x1000m.
Official documents showed it has been leased to a certain Alhaji Yusupha Jobe in 1998 as an agricultural land but was granted the conditional change of use in 2007 with the 70% of it allocated to SSHFC by the state in the same year for a housing scheme.
The Jatta Kunda clan challenged the authenticity of the 30% lease granted to Jobe Kunda in the courts.
However, the ministry says it has discovered that both Jatta Kunda and Jobe Kunda have sold lands outside their limits.
The Permanent secretary at the lands ministry, Buba Sanyang, on Monday told journalists that though his ministry prefers an amicable solution to the land problem, the right of rightful land owners must be safeguarded.
The ministry, however, requested Jatta Kunda and Jobe Kunda to explore a trade-off, hoping this would minimize property loss in the disputed area after finding itself oscillating between the choices of mass demolition of properties valued in millions and negotiations.
The lands ministry said there are currently a lot of people at risk of losing their properties after acquiring and at the wrong place in the disputed area.
PS Sanyang challenged the aggrieved parties to reach out to the Jobe and Jatta families and probably open up negotiations so as to reduce the level of demolitions and cost associated with them.
He pointed out that his ministry cannot alter a court judgement concerning the lease, adding it can only help in the execution of the court order.
He, however, said the ministry would give all the necessary support to legitimate property owners in the disputed territory.
Meanwhile after initially declining the trade-off proposal by the lands ministry, Adama Jobe, chief administrator of Jobe Kunda, said they are now open for negotiation.
The Jatta Kunda clan, represented by Amadou Ceesay, said it was willing to minimize the cost associated with demolitions by opening doors to negotiations.
But some individuals, who claimed to have bought properties in the area, have expressed reservations over the practicability of a trade-off, considering several factors such as lands being sold to multiple people.
But PS Sanyang elucidated that the trade-off approach was just a damage control tactic but that aggrieved parties have the right to avail themselves of the protection guaranteed by the laws.
See our next edition for the full text of PS Sanyang’s statement, giving a sequence of events regarding the dispute.