The apparent removal of the statue of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ at the Arch 22 has caused controversy with supporters of the former ruling APRC calling the move unnecessary and unjustifiable.
According to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Works, which supervised the uprooting of the statue, the exercise “is an executive directive aimed at wiping out the history of the former regime from the minds of Gambians.
“The removal of the statue of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ at Arch 22 is the first step to eradicate statues and monuments including street names and anything reminiscent of the former regime,” said permanent Secretary Mariama Ndure-Njie.
The Permanent Secretary further disclosed that the statue is currently under the custody of the Ministry pending a decision of a particular task force currently considering an appropriate way of disposing the ‘Unknown Soldier’.
“We have received suggestions ranging from sending the statue to the Gambia National Army or to the National Museum with a write-up of the history behind it. Others are proposing other measures”, said Mrs. Njie.
Asked about the fate of other statues at the Arch 22 including the Drummer, Xylophonist, Xalam and Kora players, Mrs. Njie-Ndure said only the ‘Unknown Soldier’ was removed from the vicinity. “We don’t know the whereabouts of those other statues”, she concluded.
The statue of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ with a rifle strapped to his back and a baby in the right hand stood near the base of the Arch 22 which was built in 1996 to mark the military coup d’état of July 22, 1994.
It was designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Coudiaby, who also designed the Banjul International Airport at Yundum.
The Standard contacted the Lord Mayor of Banjul Abdoulie Bah to shed light on the removal of the statue and the anticipated eradication of the statues and monuments including street names and anything reminiscent of the former regime.
Mayor Bah asserted that he was out of town at the time but his line-Ministry had informed him of a Task Force charged with carrying out the task. He disclosed that apart from the ‘Unknown Soldier’, there are other places that need to be looked into with a view to renaming them.
Meanwhile supporters of the APRC have disagreed with the move.
Foday Chorr, member of the opposition Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, APRC, has spoken against the removal of the statue of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ from the Arch 22.
Speaking to The Standard upon learning the removal of the statue, Mr Chorr said he couldn’t see any good reason behind the move, as the statue did not harm anybody where it was. ”I think the government has many important things to look after than this statue,” Mr Chorr said.
He further said if the reason is to clear everything associated with Jammeh, “then let them remove the Airport terminal. That too is built by Jammeh,” he said.