Gambia: Banjulians Protest ‘Deteriorating’ Environmental Situation

A group of young people that named themselves as “Arr Banjul Movement” including some concerned environmental activists yesterday gathered in Banjul to protest over what they described as the “deteriorating” environmental situation in the country’s capital.

The police, however, on Sunday evening issued a statement urging people not to partake in yesterday’s protest, claiming that Arr Banjul Movement was not issued any police permit to hold the protest. However, despite this warning, the Arr Banjul Movement still went ahead with their protest, but with less than 20 people.

The protesters held banners with inscriptions: ‘Arr Banjul’ ‘Arr Li Nyu Bokka’, ‘We call for the deindustrialisation of Tanbi Wetland and #occupy Tanbi’, while others wore T-shirts with the engraving ‘Arr Banjul Restore the Tanbi Wetland and Banjul can’t Breath’.

Meanwhile, riot police were seen within all the strategic locations of the capital city, while other personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) were stationed at the Bund Road where the protest was scheduled to begin.

The protesters later gathered at the Arch, but they were dispersed and the group leader was invited to the Police Headquarters in Banjul for further discussion.

Speaking to reporters at the Banjul City Council (BCC) premises, Ousainou Colley, commonly known as (Ousainou Gambia), said: “The protest is necessitated amid issues affecting the lives and livelihoods of Banjulians. The protest was supposed to happen at Bund Road, but we later understood that the place was occupied by security personnel; hence we decided to do it at the Arch.

Colley added: “Our movement is apolitical and our message is to sensitise people about what is happening in Banjul. We are not going out to cause problems. We are the voice of the people, hence we are speaking on behalf of Banjulians,” he posited.

The fight to save the country’s capital city, he added, starts today. “Lots of people want to turn out in numbers and join the protest. However, the police press release which was issued on Sunday evening discouraged a lot of people from participating. I want the authorities to know that we will keep up on this momentum with the objectives of ensuring that we save Banjul. This is the capital we have and the environment of Banjul is threatened. Therefore, we can’t sit and allow that to continue.”

The Arr Banjul Movement, Colley further clarifies, is not an enemy to the state. “We are not here to castigate or insult anyone. But we are going to speak and tell the people about the realities that are happening. This is what we stand for and we encourage every Gambian to join the movement. We need to do this as Gambians in order to save Banjul. No one is doing this for family things or to gain anything from it. We are doing this for a collective objective for inhabitants of more than 30, 000 Gambians who are living in Banjul.”

“The group is small but it will be bigger and bigger. We will not rest until we see that the city is safe,” he stated, claiming that Banjul is at risk and the recent flash floods which hit the country is a clear manifestation of that.

“Inhabitants of the city were hit hard as a result of the floods leaving many families homeless. I can tell you that one contributing factor to this is the serious environmental activities happening in Banjul ranging from Sand Mining at the Denton Bridge and some activities at the Tandi Wetland,” Colley said.

Ousainou Gambia further claimed: “The Tandi Wetland was the main source of the water to go to the wetland, but this has all been interrupted as a result of the activities happening in the area. This is because some business people corrupted the authorities for their own capital gain,” he added, saying that the authorities should consider the people first before any other issues.

The much talked about Banjul Road and Rehabilitation Project, he said, was not done the way it was supposed to be done despite injection of millions of dollars in the project.

“This has all contributed to the flooding in Banjul. The sad thing is that some people were packed in schools, while the authorities were sleeping in their comfortable houses. These homeless people could have been taken to a hotel rather than sleeping at schools. Therefore, to us, they don’t care and that’s among the reasons why we mobilise ourselves and protest.”

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