Thursday, November 26, 2015

KARTONG : A sign of things to come

The young people of Kartong are protesting not against the regime. Instead, they are protesting against government's inappropriate environmental policy that is threatening their immediate surroundings, including traditional public sites that villagers no longer have access due to annexation.

Central to Kartong's problems, as in most of the Kombo, is inappropriate land use adopted by the regime, exacerbated by greed and deliberate exploitative policies that benefit individuals at the expense of communities, the owners and settlers of the land.

Yaya Jammeh, his business associates and cronies are the immediate beneficiaries of inappropriate land use policies by using the right of eminent domain in the most insidious way to expropriate public and communal land for private use.  Profits generated as a result, unfortunately, go directly into private pockets with zero returns to the village communities that are left to fend for themselves in an environment that has been degraded and rendered unproductive as a result of mining activities.

The economic costs to these communities are huge.  Expropriated land that once served as farmland and vegetable gardens for the women folk of the villages no longer belong to the communities, thus leaving them with no alternative source of earning a livelihood.

The mining activities in Kartong and surrounding villages, mainly owned and operated by Yaya Jammeh and his cronies, have devastated the environment and disrupted village life, leaving villagers with no recourse.  They are not even allowed to protests against environmental degradation without being arrested, tortured and jailed.

The regime must engage the communities in the Kombos with the view to finding an equitable solution to problems brought about by inappropriate environmental policies driven by the personal greed of a handful of people.  The state, like the village residents, is also being equally deprived of revenue as a result of the current practice of expropriating land for private use with little or no benefit accruing to the public treasury.

The current practices are unsustainable, environmentally as well as socially and politically, and thus must be addressed urgently,  The village communities must take control of their communal land. Kartong residents are demanding the restoration of such rights, and neighboring communities will soon follow