By Muhammed Sailu Bah
This case was presided over by a panel headed by Fabakary Nana Sonko chief of Lower Nuimi District. The second plaintiff Ousman Ceesay, a resident of Maka village as well as 5 witnesses all testified against the defendant, Balla Manneh, Maka’s Alkalo
The Tribunal asked Ousman Ceesay: “Why do you summon Balla Manneh?
Ousman Ceesay responded: “The place designated as a pathway for use by Livestock to get to the main bush where they use as gazing place is used by Alkalo Balla Manneh as a Farm. Again two of the pillars erected on the said land have been pulled down by the Alkalo.”
The tribunal asked the defendant whether the claim is true, Balla responded in the negative.
The Tribunal later asked Ousman Ceesay, second complainant to narrate what had happened.
Ousman Ceesay said “Years ago, some people came and met with the then Alkalo, Balla’s father and identified a place for the animals to use for grazing. A pathway as well was designated which animals will use to reach the main bush where they will be gazing.
“Even Balla himself has for several years used it for herding his cattle as well as his son’s. We want him to know that it was never owned by Manneh Kunda, but the village. The land which was designated for animal grazing was owned by few people: Tamsir Mabel Jallow, Ma Demba Kebbeh, Modou Joof and the rest was a natural bush, and if my memory can serve me well it was in the year 1971.
“In 1998 Balla took the mantle of Alkaloship from his father, that’s the time Balla entered the bush and encroached in all areas of the bush. When the villagers noticed it they all said it was time to get up and stop Balla from what he was doing. So some elders of the village reported the matter to the chief, then the Chief told us to consult the NBR livestock association because it is their domain. In addition the chief sent Ebou Ndowe and Mustapha Ceesay to go and talk to the villagers in MAKA on the issue.
“Later Samba Gibbi, the then Livestock Association Chairman and Ebrima Bah, the current livestock Chairman as well as representatives of the Chiefs came to the said land to survey the land in order to identify the place properly for use by animals as pathway and grazing place.
“During the survey a portion of the farms of some of the people were taken to be part of the animal pathway. Among them are Bassirou Ndow, Ash Jobe and Hamadou Jobe as well as Balla Manneh. All the others agreed with the decision except Balla.
“Balla later cultivated the land after the Chief asked people to stop using the land for farming purpose.
“Balla at first agreed to leave the land but later he put it to his personal use. Balla went to the chief the following day after the survey of the land and told the Chief that the Maka people have taken their family farmland which had already been cultivated and used it for Livestock grazing. Then later Balla told us that the chief had given him a document to allow him to cultivate the land and to leave it after harvesting.
“But Balla did not do so as he later cultivated millet in the following year and prevented cattle from getting to their usual grazing area in the bush. So we decided to stand up and make sure this stops.
“Then later we went to the Chief and Livestock Association to lay our complaints, the chief advised us to solve the problem amicably. Then later the Livestock Association recommended that some pillars be erected at the designated areas for identification purposes. The Livestock Association told Maka village development committee to use their own money to establish the pillars and the money spent would be refunded later.
“The VDC later built 10 pillars on the said land, the elders and some representatives of the Chief present said t no one should use the land where the pillars were built. Then later Balla was bold enough to start clearing the land again for farming and later pulled down two of the pillars.
He remarked, “I lost seven cattle because of the actions of Balla who obstructed the passage of cattle to get to their gazing places.”
The Tribunal asked Balla whether he has any questions to ask the second plaintiff and he responded in the positive.
Balla asked whether Ousman knows the year his grandfathers started working on that said Farm land.
Ousman said “Don’t ask me that question, but the Tribunal at that juncture told Ousman to either answer in the negative or positive. Then Ousman said he does not know.
Balla said they were not born by then “but if you want to know something in a village or compound you have to ask the head to know more. He said it was in 1933 when his grandparents started working on that farmland and they also went to some parts of Senegal to clear some lands as well. The Tribunal stopped Balla at that juncture and told him not to narrate what happened, but rather asked questions. He said the Tribunal should allow him explain a little so that he can be able to ask questions.
Balla said his great grand father gave his land to his grand parents and his grand parents are the custodians of land in Maka because they are the founders of the area, adding they gave lands to other people who came to settle in that place.
Balla asked whether Ousman knows when Gorge’s leadership started and whether he knows about the conflict between Maka and Kerr Pateh and the one who intervened to resolve the conflict.
The Tribunal still insisted that Balla should ask a question pertaining to the issue. The Tribunal further stated that they have given Balla chance to narrate his story which he did and now they are only giving him a chance to ask questions because all what he has said is written down by the court.
The Tribunal further said Balla should not teach them what to do.
Alhassan Joof, EbrimaCamara, Basirundow Modou Ceesay, Omar Joof, these are the witnesses that testify against the Alkalo of Maka Balla Village.
Ebou Ndow Mustapha Ceesay, are security officers of the Tribunal who also explained what they know about the issue.
Balla said he did not pull down the pillars and it is not that true that the land is a pathway for animals. He said there is a special area which animals can use which is about 74 metres wide to go to their grazing point in the bush. He claimed that these people have a personal grudge against him just to take his land in the Name of creating a pathway for the animals. He revealed that Maka village consists of four sects of communities and amongst them it is only one community which is trying to bring problems for him in his land that he has been using for farming for the past 15 years.
The Lower Nuimi Tribunal in Essau adjourned the case for Judgment on Thursday 11 June 2015.