Hardly a month winds up without land clashes, at times macabre, hitting newspaper headlines or dominating TV screen spaces. Even when it appeared that land-related tensions are a feature of urban Gambia and only a problem in the highly-priced Kombo, it is now becoming surely apparent that disputes over land ownership are widespread national malaise.
It was not ages ago when a native of Gunjur was shot dead in a lethal land clash with the neighbouring community of Berending. It was also just last week that 12 people reportedly sustained varying degrees of injuries in the Upper River Region when communities of Perai Tenda and Waliba clashed over a farmland. A compound was also reported to have been set on fire in the ensuing disturbances. But before that, three villagers of Faraba Banta were also shot dead in land-related protests and some villagers have sustained life-scaring injuries as a result. The Salagi land conundrum, the Darsilami border friction, the Old Yundum community land friction with the legislators, the Kubandar-Maka Farafenni simmering land tension. The list is just long!
But as all this unravels in a country reputed for the peaceful co-existence of her people, wouldn’t it be germane to ask: Are our authorities really able to rise up to the land challenges? If you ask us, we would tell you the seeming lethargy on the part of the concerned land authorities to not only prevent but solve land-related disputes is a source of nagging worries. Everywhere in most of these hotspots, the word enforcement is on the minds of many. And as if oblivious of the drastic surgery that land problem requires, government is not seen to be keen in enforcing many court decisions in the land conflicts.
And how about a functioning and responsive land commission?
There is no gain-saying the frequency of land-related tensions in the country and how to nip them in the bud as well as to provide durable solutions should be the preoccupation of our government. Inertia, non-chalance and palliative measures in this highly volatile land situation should not be excused because it is pushing the country to the precipice. Communities are on edge as neighbours can descend on neighbours at any given opportunity. People cannot make optimal use of their properties due to usually long drawn-out land legal battles. Social cohesion is endangered. Security and safety of persons and property threatened. There are certainly a whole lot of problems this land issue presents to the country in this post-Jammeh era.
Therefore, for the umpteenth time, the land commission needs to get their act together otherwise it would share the blame when these tensions degenerate into full-blown physical confrontations.