Wednesday and Thursday, 31 May and 1 April 2017, businesses were delayed in Banjul, as transport workers were said to have entered into the warehouse at Bond road in Banjul, stopping vehicles from loading goods for transportation.  The police intervened, but the brawl between Mauritanian businessmen and those claiming to be union representatives continued the whole day till dawn.

During a visit at the scene, in Banjul less than 50 meters from the Police Headquarters, transport workers were found insulting Mauritanians, who were out of their shops in the street keenly listening to the disgruntle transport workers who were threatening them.

“You said Gambian police and the authorities are like chicken, if you feed them you own them,” one of the transport workers chanted, while insulting the Mauritanian on Wednesday evening. Following this development, the Mauritanian authorities through their embassy ordered for their people to close their businesses, until their security is guaranteed by the Gambian authorities, resulting to closure of businesses in Banjul on Thursday.

Parties involved were said to have been invited to the Vice President’s Office to address the matter.

“The matter was discussed and misunderstandings resolved, guaranteeing Mauritanian businessmen to return to business,” sources said.

One Dodou Joof, a transport worker was reportedly arrested and detained during the fracas on Wednesday afternoon. 

Those claiming to be transport union members barricading truck loaded at the warehouse in bond-road from proceeding to its destination.

A Mauritanian Businessman told this reporter on telephone conversation that he was given a manifesto to load, but was obstructed by the said transport workers.

Omar Ceesay, who claim to be representing Banjul Transport Workers Association accused the Mauritanians of bribing the police and jumping the normal queue to load their vehicles, which is why they obstructed the said vehicles from loading.

When contacted, Mustapha Jobe, acting President of the Gambia Transport, Food, Agricultural, Industrial Workers Union (GTFAIWU) condemned the act, describing it as criminal act, adding that the Unionists have no right to stop drivers from loading.

Meanwhile, Mr Jobe said one Omar Ceesay also came to the Trucks Garage in Abuko and attempted to take away their Out Tickets. He said the matter was reported to the Abuko police for appropriate action. “The police told him that he (Mr Ceesay) has no right to interfere in the work of the unionists, thereby compelling him to return back their out tickets.

Mr Jobe also accuses the Deputy Inspector General of Police of backing the said Banjul Transport Workers Association, which he said is formed with an ulterior motive, of undermining the union, by means of spoon feeding their counterparts. 

Transport workers who spoke to this reporter on Wednesday called on the police to stop meddling into the internal affairs of the union.

“An Association should always be under union, but as the situation is here, these transport association members are bypassing the union and operating above the union,” said Sheikh Mbackeh Joof, a member of the Gambia Transport, Food and Agricultural Industrial Workers Union, who was present at the scene.

“A public figure who preferred not to be mentioned cautioned the authorities to be cautious of the situation, noting that there is no law in the country, if people chooses to do all they want to do and go scot free. We are worried with the way the country is being run,” said prominent public figure.

The transport sector has over the past decades been encountering numerous challenges due to division between the union and the association. The union members have been blaming some police officers for accepting bribes to back the association members, to fight down the union, thereby condoning criminal activities in the country, hence affecting businesses and services. Members of this association were part of the National Transport Control Association that was banned sometimes in April 2016, following letter written by the Guinea Bissau Authorities accusing Muminy Sey’s led GNTCA of economic crimes. The former Government consequently banned GNTCA, and the case was taken to court. The Union members have been on numerous occasions been subjected to arrests and detention by some of the police backing the association that the union is accusing of misusing drivers money, bribing authorities to prevail.

With the latest State House intervention, there is hope for a better understanding among transport workers.

Written By A Correspondent 

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