The Kanifing Municipal Council is concerned that the crisis surrounding the Bakoteh dumpsite to an extent being politicised. This is a complete deviation from the crux of the issue at hand and is not liable to bring about any constructive solution to the problem.
It should be understood that only a handful of people laid siege to the Bakoteh dumpsite for the past three months, disrupting routine services of the council on a massive scale as we were forced to resort to dumping our waste all the way at the Mile 2 dumpsite in Banjul. Consequently, we witnessed an unprecedented accumulation of waste and the emergence of indiscriminate dumps across the Municipality.
The situation eventually exploded on Saturday when dozens of trucks loaded with waste collected by volunteers who engaged in a community cleansing exercise at the Serre Kunda Market were prevented from off loading at the Bakoteh dump site.
The volunteers felt this was not right and apparently re echoed the stand of the council that the site should be opened unconditionally by any means appropriate in the larger interest of the rest of the Municipality.
The group had a police permit to demonstrate only for a day. They had no authority to lock down the dumpsite and it was made abundantly clear to them at a meeting at the Police Headquarters several months ago that their action was unlawful.
In fact, a consensus was reached at that very meeting that they should reopen the dumpsite for operations and the KMC even offered to engage some of the unemployed youth of the area to jointly manage the dump site and put them on salary. They agreed to meet at their level to identify individuals for recruitment by the council, only to disappear in thin air and in turn accuse the authorities for refusing to engage them in dialogue.
It is pretty much awkward and unfair for some local politicians under the circumstances to try to give legitimacy to the group for effectively closing down a public facility for three consecutive months, while they reject every possible solution offered to them at various stages by the KMC, the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Environment.
The elected councillors of Bakoteh and Manjai as well as the alkalolu of both communities and the elected National Assembly Member for Serre Kunda West are all vehemently opposed to the actions of this group. It defies logic therefore that any other politician or group can be more concerned unless they are more Christian than the pope.
The entire government machinery and the Municipality were literally held at ransom for three months and the state was absolutely right in asserting its authority proportionately to restore public order.
No matter how committed the government may be to guaranteeing civil liberties, no individual or group of people should be allowed to flout the law with utter impunity in the name of exercising their democratic rights.
It is essential to state here that law enforcement by the Police Intervention Unit was a very last resort after two separate meetings between the group, KMC and state officials led by the ministers of the Interior and the Environment failed to provide any meaningful solution to ending the three – month old deadlock.
They are virtually responsible for the unfortunate incident of people dumping waste at the KMC Head Office last Saturday out of frustration for lack of access to the dump site after engaging in a whole day’s cleansing exercise at the Serre Kunda Market. We condemn this act in the strongest terms possible and call on the citizenry to engage the council in constructive dialogue on any issues of concern to them as opposed to resorting to such disorderly measures.
Waste management remains the most critical urban challenge of the KMC and we do have our shortfalls. This does not mean that we do not recognise the suffering caused by the dumpsite to its immediate surroundings. We remain resolute in our efforts to better manage the dumpsite despite resource gaps. The council will also continue to work with the government and its agencies to find a permanent solution this problem. We are also ready to collaborate with responsible members of the community who find wisdom in positive engagement.