By Mustapha Jallow
A delegation said to be sent by President Yaya Jammeh and headed by Speaker Abdoulie Bojang, of the National Assembly, held a meeting with the elders and community of Kartong yesterday, 1 December 2015, following the announcement that the charges preferred against some villagers were to be dropped. Among the delegation were Cabinet Minister Momodou Aki Bayo of Lands and Regional Government, Minister Ousman Sonko of the Interior, Minister Abdou Kolley of Finance and Economic Affairs, Minister Sheriff Bojang of Information and Communication Infrastructure and the regional governor, among others.
Speaker Bojang stated that this is a matter that should have been addressed by the Minister of Lands and Regional Government but it is the delegation that is going to do it. He said it is very sad for them to come to Kartong to address this issue. He said all those who are there are people from West Coast Region; adding that the problem could be solved among themselves without involving others.
The Speaker said to rule a country is difficult. He said people should not leave their culture behind when dealing with such matters as these are the things they have as a people.
“It’s the president who sent us here and he spoke about it during the meeting,” said the National Assembly Speaker.
He said the president said he is a Kartongka, meaning an indegene of Kartong and that West Coast trusts Kartong.
The Speaker told the meeting that this was an experience but urged them to be patient and to have faith. He expressed his regret that Lamin Jamba Bojang is not with them.
Addressing the gathering the Minister of Lands and Regional Government said someone from Kartong had earlier gone to apologise to the president during his meeting in Gunjur but was not successful in his attempts. He said the person, who remains anonymous, however persisted in his efforts and that the President eventually directed them as Cabinet Ministers to witness the meeting.
“Rudeness or extremism should not be encouraged. We have seen how the president punished people if they break the law, including his own relatives. But everything could happen. Let’s just pray for the best,” said Mr. Aki Bayo.
He said the Kartong people need to be patient as they have President Jammeh behind them. He said they should set good example rather than otherwise.
For his part, Minister Sonko said he is thanking all those who were present at the meeting, adding that the previous speakers have already said everything.
“It is because of the peace which prevails that we are gathered here,” said the Interior minister.
He said some countries are facing lots of conflicts and that one can only start a problem but does not know how or when it will escalate.
“Anything that should happen must happen. If anything is to happen here in the Gambia, please before you act, know the actual facts. You can go to the police and report all the matters,” he said.
“You could be on track, but your actions may lead you to something bad. I don’t say Kartong is also like that but let us not be pressured by others. If the charges were to be continued, then I know most of the youths may spend their lives in prison.”
He said they should be patient and always try to be law abiding and to meet the authorities before taking the law into their own hands.
“The president forgives you because he knows that you are the future leaders. I urge the elders to always put things together before they escalate. It’s hard to see the youths going to the prison but I urge the youths to stay calm,” said the Interior minister.
He concluded by urging them to be law abiding.
Demba Jabang, the Alkalo (Village Head) of Kartong, for his part, expressed his happiness to receive such a high level delegation from the government coming to talk about peace. He urged the community to pay heed to what the delegation is coming to tell them.
The regional governor of West Coast Region, Mrs. Sifai Hydara, also spoke and thanked the delegation for their mission.
Modou Mbye Jabang, who gave the vote of thanks, said the people of Kartong are not trouble makers. He said the community should have been engaged on a meeting before mining started and requested for more consultation.