By Mamour M Mbenga
Some unemployed young people, often called ‘Bumpsters’, who hang around the tourism development area (TDA) to look for tourist friends are lamenting the difficulties they face especially with the security. They claim that they are being harassed and often held when seen walking with tourist friends.
Willy Mendy, one of the young men, said they are not criminals but people who want to meet and develop friendship with the tourists who are visiting the country by serving them as guides in order to earn something for their survival.
“This is a form of self employment in which we offer ourselves as guides to the tourists who want to visit the town, markets or other tourist attraction sites,” he said.
Mr. Mendy explained that the friendship they develop with the tourists apart from the immediate financial benefits for them also offers other opportunities as they sometime meet with philanthropists who would want to support communities that are in need.
“We are appealing to the authorities to prevail on the security to make life easy for us to try our luck with the tourists since jobs are no jobs for young people,” he said.
On the issue of security of the tourists during their stay, Mr. Mendy said they are equally concerned with this issue. “The security of the tourist is always our primary concern when we escort them around town,” he added.
Another young man, Mohammed Sillah, said he is only hanging around looking for a tourist friend because there is no other legitimate alternative for him to rely on for his survival. He said he had finished his secondary education almost ten years ago but cannot secure any employment.
“I have instead chosen this tourist guide work and not the perilous ‘back way’ journey which most of my friends have resorted to make it in life but unfortunately it is not being made easy for us,” he disclosed.
Mr. Sillah said the tourists have not started coming in large numbers, adding that he is yet to find a new or old friend.
He lamented the negative image being portrayed of them in the state media. “We are decent and responsible people who want to survive through honest means by befriending tourists to serve as guides,” he said.
Foroyaa has already put forward a request to interview the security and tourism authorities to find out how they want to deal with the unemployed young people who frequent the TDA but are not recognized as official guides.