28 C
City of Banjul
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Open Letter to The President

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I erected a perimeter fence around the whole land. This work was carried out and supervised by my Gambian partner, Alieu Barry, who has a share in the land. Since 1996, I borrowed my land to one Bijilo resident, Mr Ousman Jallow, to farm there. My Gambian partner Mr Barry renewed this permission every year.

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In 2005 when I returned to The Gambia to implement my investment plan with Mr. Barry, I found that my land was encroached. The Alkalo of Bijilo, Yankuba Jatta, who had signed all my documents had sold my land again to several real estate agents. I took legal action against the encroachers under the Civil Law of the country, which took almost seven years before I got judgment in my favour on the 2.10.2012. Attachment No. 2

 

On 8th October 2012 I got my writ of possession. Attachment No. 3   On 9th October 2012 eviction was carried out by the Sheriff’s Department and my land was returned to me. Only 3 families were evicted at that time.

 

On 2nd February 2013, I and my Gambian partner Alieu Barry, were subject to an illegal arrest in the presence of one encroacher, Mr. Sowe. We were detained and remanded in Mile 2 by the then Minister of Justice Lamin Jobarteh in connection with my land in Bijilo. After our arrest, Mr. Jobarteh asked some of the encroachers to go back to my land which was returned to me by Writ of Law. The encroachers carried on their illegal activities to complete their houses, which they started building during our pending case at the Brikama High Court. Even an injunction given by the court and a police intervention at that time did not stop these people from building and completing their houses.

 

On 14th August 2013, the encroachers who were asked to go back to my land by Mr. Jobarteh, were again evicted by the Sheriff’s Department and the land was returned to me again.

On 1st August 2013, I applied for a change of use of my land at the Department of Physical Planning and Housing, based on an approval that was previously given to third parties and based on the development of my property with approval and/or acquiescence of the Ministry of Lands. The Department of Physical Planning and Housing did not respond at all to my application. Attachment No. 4

 

On 7th January 2014, I got a copy of a letter, written from the Ministry of Lands to the Director of Physical Planning regarding my application for change of use. Attachment No. 5 

 

The letter stated that the Ministry of Lands has no other option but to re-enter my property. My lawyer, Ida Drameh, wrote on 23rd January 2014 and 2nd June 2014 two letters addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands, pointing out that the intention of the Ministry of Lands would amount to a Contempt of Court. Attachment No. 6 and 7.  The Ministry did not respond to these letters to date.

 

On 19th May 2014, me and my Gambian partner Alieu Barry were called to the Police Major Crime Unit in Banjul to give a statement about a petition regarding “22 Gambian families in a land dispute in Bijilo with a German national Bernd George Diedrich”. I and Mr. Barry had no detailed knowledge of any petition and we never had a dispute with any group of 22 Gambian families. My land had been divided  into 22 plots by the encroachers, not at any time did 22 Gambian families lived there. Attachment No. 8. Only three families were evicted on 9th October 2012.

 

Four months later, on 30th September 2014, I received a letter from the Office Of The President, signed by Noah Touray, inviting me for a meeting on 6th October 2014 at 10 a.m. regarding that petition of “22 Gambian families”. The intention of the invitation was to “discuss and decide the way forward”. Attachment No. 9

At that meeting, to which I went with Mr. Alieu Barry, no discussion at all took place. I was told, that the Task Force had reached a decision and Mr. Noah Touray emphasised that this decision has to be seen as a State Decision, which is final. They commented that they are going to compensate me for my 22,000 sqm land in Bijilo Tranquil with a 10,000 sqm agricultural plot in Jambur, next to the Nyambai Forest. Furthermore they stated that the encroachers, who had built their storey buildings during the pending case at the Brikama High Court, will be called to compensate me with “a feasible amount” which will not reflect the actual market price of the land. It was said that the encroachers have to pay these amounts directly to the Task Force. The money will be forwarded to me later. The remaining empty plots will be annexed by the State.

 

I disagreed with this decision and informed the Task Force that I have to contact my lawyer. During that meeting I was not provided with the petition of the “22 Gambian families” and I was told that the Police Report is confidential.

On 6th October 2014, I wrote a letter to His Excellency, The President Of The Republic of The Gambia, to inform him about the illegal decision of the Task Force. Attachment No 10

 

On 9th October 2014, I was called from the State House to come and collect a letter, which was signed by Noah Touray. Attachment No. 11. The letter indicated, that I am mandated to vacate my land “as agreed upon on our meeting of the 6th October 2014” pending the finalisation of the compensation procedures and I was informed that the Gambian Police Force will take over the security of my land.

 

On 13th October 2014, I wrote a letter to the Secretary General at The Office Of The President, to clarify that I did not agree at all with the compensation decision on the meeting on 6th October 2014 and that the Permanent Secretary Noah Touray and the whole Task Force are in Contempt of a Court Order with the decision imposed on me on that meeting. Attachment No. 12

 

On Tuesday, 14th October 2014 a full truck of PIU officers, led by two police officers from the Major Crime Unit in Banjul vacated seven homeless families with a lot of children, whom I have given shelter on my land in the structures left by the encroachers for security reason. The officers demanded also the set of keys for two houses which were given to me by the Sheriff’s Department. After the completion of the vacation of the homeless families, the two police officers of the Major Crime Unit informed us  that they are not going to vacate us until the compensation issue is finalised. All these actions, decisions and conclusions were made without any agreement. Furthermore, there is an outstanding Court of Appeal Ruling regarding one of the defendants, a Dutch national, Andre Sape van Klaabergen. Since then the PIU officers have been mounting security in my land.

 

On 17th October 2014, I received a telephone call from one police officer of the Major Crime Unit requesting me to vacate my land. I asked the officer for what reason and emphasised that he can only evict me from my land with a Court Order.

On 20th October, my lawyer, Ida Drameh, wrote a letter to the Attorney General regarding the meeting with the Task Force at the State House on 6th October 2014. Attachment No. 13

 

On 20th October, I received another letter from the Department of Physical Planning and Housing, signed by Amadou AS Batchilly for Director, asking me to immediately vacate my land as agreed upon on the meeting of 6th October 2014. Attachment No. 14.   My lawyer, Ida Drameh, responded to this letter on 23th October 2014 and there is as well no response to this letter to date. Attachment No. 15

 

We are waiting now almost eight weeks for a response from the authorities.

From my point of view the behaviour of the Members of The Task Force is demonstrating a blatant disrespect for a constitutional element of this country, the judgment of a Superior Court.

 

I am desperate, confused and frustrated in the meantime after all I have gone through together with my partner Mr. Alieu Barry, regarding my land in Bijilo. We were illegally detained, our passports were seized for six months and we then asked to be witnesses for the State in the Jobarteh trial, which we just finished last month. I am here in the country now for almost 2 years with immense costs in The Gambia and regarding my office in Germany which business is destroyed in the meantime and not to talk about the emotional challenge. 

 

After waiting in vain for a response from the authorities, I am seeking help from you, Your Excellency, the President of this Great Nation, to solve this big problem. Dear Mr. President, I very much need your just consideration for which you are always commended nationally and internationally. 

 

Bernd G Diedrich                                                                                                                                            Alieu Barry

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