Three Faraba Banta protesters have been taken into custody by the police, according to Gambia’s Inspector General of police Landing Kinteh. Mr. Kinteh said the arrested villagers were part of a group of protesters, who allegedly vandalized a caterpillar and other equipment belonging to the Julakay Engineering and construction company. “Three people associated with the protest have been arrested. The ring leader and the organizer of the protest is being sought. The investigations are ongoing as far as the Faraba case is concerned,” said IGP Kinteh.
The Faraba environmentalists have accused the Inspector General of police of siding with the giant mining company—Julakay. A charge denied by IGP Kinteh.
“My conscience is clear with regards to the action we taken in trying to maintain the rule of law. Julakay was duly issued with license to mine,” said the Gambian police Chief. Kinteh said prior to the protest march, he had invited all the stakeholders including the Faraba village Development Committee to discuss the matter.
Sand mining is a lucrative business venture in the Gambia; though environmentalists have frowned against the practice. They say it is causing more harm than good to the environment.
Over the weekend, the villagers of Faraba Banta took to the streets to protest against a local sand mining company after accusing the company of environmental exploitation.
Faraba is situated in South Western Gambia. It is about 51 kilometers away from the capital city Banjul.
Police Chief Kinteh said Julakay normally pays a quarterly compensation of D100,000.00 to the community of Faraba. He adds that Faraba’s VDC committee headed by Alhagie Sanyang have benefited from monetary compensation from Julakay. The IGP also said there are some residents of the village, who are engaged in illegal sand mining.
Alhagie Sanyang, the Chairman of the Faraba VDC has rejected the IGP’s claims. Sanyang said he and his committee have never received a dime from Julakay. Mr. Sanyang said it was wrong for the government to issue mining license to Julakay without consulting the community of Faraba.
According to Sanyang, Julakay’s mining firm is causing more harm than good to the environment. He said there is a football field right before the mining site, and that Julakay’s trucks often occupy people’s properties.
IGP Kinteh earlier told this medium that Sanyang was on the run, but the Faraba VDC Chairman has vehemently denied such claims. He told the Freedom Newspaper that he hasn’t done anything to warrant him to evade arrest. He said to the contrary, the people of Faraba had a peaceful meeting on Saturday in the village, only for the meeting to be disrupted by armed paramilitary officers. Sanyang also denied that his VDC members destroyed Julakay’s caterpillars.
IGP Kinteh said the Faraba protesters had convened a protest without obtaining a police permit. He notes that such an unauthorized protest marches will only hurt Gambia’s investment prospects.
“ We should be very mindful with this kind of activities because they will destroy investors. This is a guy, who went through all the processes to get what he got; invested money; and at the end of the day, some elements because of their own selfish interest are saying this should not be,” said police Chief Kinteh.
IGP Kinteh also accused the ring leader of the protest march of shutting down the public taps in the village on the night of the protest. Mr. Sanyang, in a counter reaction said neither him, nor members of the VDC were involved in the alleged shutting down of the public taps in Faraba.
Dr. Lamin Conteh is a professor of Accounting based in the United States. Dr. Conteh is a native of Faraba. Dr. Conteh says Faraba is below sea level. And he warns that any attempt to mine sand in the locality could expose the villagers to potential flooding during the rainy season.
“What the women are complaining about is that; is the water from the river; the salt is encroaching on the rice fields and on their gardens, so, which means that if we have rain again this year, we going to have more salt coming to the rice fields,” Dr. Conteh tells Freedom Newspaper.
Armed paramilitary police are still deployed at the village. They are guarding the mining site.