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Sunday, September 20, 2020

The status quo cannot remain: Faraba incident, an ugly turn of events

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By Hatab Fadera

I have said before that our new found democracy will be meaningless if our state security apparatus is not subjected to critical reorientation and reformation required to match with the new order. For the security personnel to still think that live ammunitions could be used in a civil-driven protest as means of quelling it speaks how distant they are with the rest of the people and the current realities.

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It shows that the security reform process that the government so enthusiastically trumpets has not even begun. Who would have thought that we would still be counting deaths as a result of a fracas between the security forces and the very people they signed to protect, two years after Jammeh was shown the exit door for his abysmal human rights records?
Events earlier today were sad and unfortunate. But it comes down to leadership. The Office of the IG said it did not authorize the shooting.

But the question is; why handed the police guns with live bullets to contain a protest? Why didn’t the police opt for false/rubber bullets? Teargas if you want to add! There are a lot of questions about leadership. It is clear there was total negligence and sheer recklessness on the part of the leadership. Did the police know the competence of the personnel deployed to contain the protest? Do those personnel have critical minds to exercise maximum restraints in the course of executing their duties as required by law? The best is for the leadership to take total responsibility and bring to book, perpetrators of this heinous crime. No more Gambian blood must soak our land. There has to be a FULL STOP.

This incident should be a rude awakening. This should alarm Barrow that the government must listen to ordinary people and work towards addressing their concerns. Turning a blind eye to legitimate concerns of the people, especially poor farmers, is a sign of weakness and deficiency in leadership. The government must realize that its first obligation is to advance and protect the interest of the ordinary people. Any government policy or decision that fails to guarantee citizen protection and advance their interest is bad and must not be pursued. For a while, the people of Faraba made it clear their unequivocal rejection of a sand-mining license to Julakay Enterprise. They made it clear that such activities would destroy their farmlands, thus threatening their very means of survival. How the authorities could have thought that was not a legitimate concern still baffles me.

The peri-urban community of Faraba, like most Gambian communities, depends hugely on subsistence agriculture as the means of their survival. Any activity that is likely to affect the livelihood of the people and threaten their survival is a recipe for disaster. People would naturally use all available means to defend themselves, especially when their livelihoods are threatened. The government could have foreseen that community interest matters more than that of the capitalist.

What was Julakay going to give back to the community other than a destruction of their environment? In fact, how did the government arrive at granting license to this firm? Was prior assessment done to determine the potential damages to the environment? Didn’t the government know that it was endangering the lives of poor people by granting a license to Julakay? Someone has to take responsibility – from those who issued license to those who authoritised the use of force against the people,
Beyond that, it is clear that Barrow cannot be comfortable with tragic events unfolding before our eyes. Barrow must muster courage to exercise a leadership that is prudent, engaged, decisive, proactive and driven. He can’t be okay with the status quo. His reputation, credibility and legacy are at stake. The onus now lies on him to take the necessary cause of actions that will reassure citizen rights and protection. So many things are going wrong and that leadership brake must be aptly applied to ensuring that we do not wake up again to this sort of ugly episodes. I hope that Barrow will act and speak to the people who elected him. I expect him to come out and condemn the shootings and promise that perpetrators would be brought to justice. Once again, the Jammeh instituted Indemnity Act must be revoked without delay so that security personnel could account for heinous crimes perpetrated against the citizens. There is still a chance!

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