By MUHAMMED SAILU BAH
Vendors at the Bundung Borehole market were on Saturday 12 December 2015 issued a notice by the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) for them to vacate the area and relocate to what they call ‘a remote and small place’.
They are now appealing to the executive to intervene and prevail on the KMC. They made the appeal through this reporter at the said market in Bundung Borehole on Sunday, 13 December 2015.
Sarjo Sarr, the owner of one of the milling machines in the market, said the notice to vacate the place was announced to them at a meeting that their market committee had with KMC officials and the National Assembly Member for the area which was held at the Bundung School on Saturday evening. He said some of the vendors, including himself, were in attendance. According to him, the municipal officials during the discussion gave them one week to vacate the place where the market is situated presently and relocate to another place in an area called ‘Jola’ Kunda and which is about 600 metres away.
Mr. Sarr explained that they were told that the issue of their removal from the place came about after the recent meeting of the president in Bundung when some residents in the area complained about the problem of lack of access to water. He said the officials told them that this water problem is caused by the market which is situated at the borehole and that as such they should vacate the place for NAWEC.
“This proposed new place they want us to transfer to is not developed for the purpose of a market and is also a very small area which cannot accommodate even a quarter of us,” said Mr.Sarr.
He expressed his concern that they will be losing their customers as the place is remote and not easy to access.
“We are therefore appealing to the president to intervene so that we will continue with our small businesses. Most of us here are young people who are under 30 years and have families that depend on us for their survival and being forced out of business would make them suffer,” he added.
Mr. Sarr revealed that he has been struggling at this market to make ends meet for the past 15 years and that transferring them to a place which is not easily accessible to the customers and where there is no guarantee for a place because of the small size is a recipe for killing their businesses.
“We need the support of both the municipal authorities and government because as young people we can do what our peers are doing by risking the ‘back way’ journey to Europe but have decided to stay. It is not easy to stay at all as the business we are doing is not that much lucrative. We are just living from hand to mouth. But to remove us from here is to make life more difficult for us and our families,” disclosed Mr. Sarr.
One of the young vendors claimed that the KMC had told them that the land belongs to NAWEC but that for the past 4 years up to now they have been asked to be paying D300 (Three Hundred Dalasi) at the end of every last Wednesday in the month to generate funds in order to purchase the said land for the purpose of having a permanent market.
This reporter was shown some KMC receipts of this monthly D300 payments and the annual licence fee of D1000 by the vendors.
“What baffles me at the meeting was the fact that none of us was allowed to speak. They only announced to us that we should vacate the place by next week,” he added.
Similar concerns were also raised by Assan Ceesay, an elderly man in his 70s, who added that he was relocated from the inside the market where he initially had his stall to the outside where he is presently.
“Where I am now is not an ideal place but is far more better than the area they want us to move to in ‘Jola Kunda’,” said Ceesay.
He said he has been in the market for more than 35 years now. “I started with a small canteen when this place was not occupied by any one and my business grew gradually and I now sell building materials,” he said.
Mr.Ceesay also appealed to the president to intervene and urge the Council to change its decision.
A charcoal seller in her late forties, who said she is speaking on behalf of the women vendors, also appealed for a reversal of the decision to remove them from the area.
She called on the KMC to acquire the land and provide the necessary facilities which are available in any modern market.
“The KMC has recently built a toilet in the market which is yet to be inaugurated and now they are talking about removing us from the place,” she noted.
She also added her voice to the concern raised by her fellow vendors regarding the inaccessibility and small size of the place which, she said, is not ideal for them and their business.
Seedy Jaiteh, another elderly person said to be in his 60s, explained how they had worked so hard to build the market and in supporting each other in their respective businesses. He said this planned is going to shatter them and their businesses as they will have to start from scratch again to build another strong and supportive market community.
Similar comments were made by many vendors who wanted to express their concerns and convey their appeal to the authorities to rescind the decision to remove from the market.
Speaking to some of the customers and residents around the market, they also expressed their support as well as solidarity with vendors. They called on the authorities to leave the market where it is and find other ways of addressing the water problem if that is the only reason behind the decision to remove them from the place.
“The market as it is presently is very strategically situated in the heart of the outlying communities and is very easily accessible to everyone. Therefore any attempt to remove or relocate it to somewhere is going to bring a lot of difficulties not only to the vendors but customers as well,” said Isatou Badjie, a customer.
Foroyaa, which was unable to get the KMC over the weekend, will contact them on the issue.