Saturday, May 9, 2015

GAMBIA: Massive land grab threatens the peace and stability

The Gambian dictator and his military escorts
The Gambian dictator is using his 16-day tour of the countryside to annex huge tracks of arable agricultural land, using intimidation and outright threats to a powerless and suppressed population.

In the first week of his 16-day provincial tour, Jammeh has intimidated a massively distraught and highly resigned rural ( as well as their urban counterparts) population to the point of having them ceding their traditional rights under the legally recognized rural land tenure system that has been in operation for centuries.

Those very rights that have been left essentially intact, even under British colonialism, are now threatened by Yaya Jammeh.  He is achieving it through brute force, intimidation and outright blackmail.  Those communities who refuse to cede their rights to their traditional land will be punished in numerous ways, including total isolation from and denial of the benefits of development assistance.  He has made these threats regularly and in public fora during election campaigns that those who do not give in to his wishes will be denied public and international development assistance.

The regime's own figures suggest that Gambia's stock of arable land is limited to only 558,000 ha, of which 57% is cropped annually under rain-fed conditions with only 6% of the irrigation potential has been used.  The other half not under cultivation represent farms left to fallow and virgin land. Jammeh has set his eyes on lands that he refers to as "excess arable land" which he wants to annex on behalf of his private company Kanilai Family Farms.

During his current so-called tour of the provinces, he has accumulated 10,150 ha ( representing 2% of total arable land ) from a terrified populace who are constantly being intimidated  by security agents of the dictatorship into giving up their rights to their traditional land.  The village elders must realize they are acting illegally and against the interest of their children, grandchildren and generations yet unborn, but allowing Jammeh to disrupt a tradition tenure system that has survived British colonial rule.

Jammeh must be stopped before it is too late because if the land grab is allowed to proceed unchecked and unchallenged, it reversal will plunge the country into absolute chaos, especially if ownership is transferred from Kanilai Family Farms to a foreign investor.