UN, ECOWAS warn Gambia to take care of lands for future

Jul 9, 2024, 12:25 PM | Article By: Sulayman Waan

The Ministry of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs on Thursday inaugurated two taskforce committees to investigate illegal encroachments as well as Ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s lands within the Greater Banjul Area.

The committees will investigate illegal encroachments within Tambi Wetlands of Cape Point and Jeshwang, encroachments within government designated layouts and state reserve lands as well as former President Jammeh's lands in Manduwar, Jamburr, Kassa Kunda Brufut-Madiyanna villages among others amid both UN and ECOWAS’ warning that if the land issues in the country are not taken care it could lead to undesirable circumstances in the future.

The Government Layouts and Reserve Lands Committee comprises: Kebba Njie, Chairman; Inspector General of Police Office (IGP); Solicitor General’s Office; Director General of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Office; Jainaba Nyang, Madi Fafa Ceesay and Kemo Conteh, while Tambi Wetlands Committee includes: Bai Mass Taal, chairman, Director General of SIS Office; Solicitor General’s Office, IGP Office, Bolong Sonko and Pa Ousman Jarju. 

In his inaugural remarks, Hamat N.K. Bah, the minister for Lands, said the President Adama Barrow-led government won’t be tired of getting things right, especially addressing issues that affect the well-being of Gambians.

He acknowledged that The Gambia has series of land disputes and therefore, the ministry deems it necessary to institute committees that would investigate the illegal encroachments within the Tambi Wetlands of Cape Point and Jeshwang and encroachments within government designated layouts.

He further said the taskforces are mandated to investigate the lands belongings to Ex-President Jammeh at Manduwar, Jamburr, Brufut-Madiyana,  Kassa Kunda among others.

"The permanent secretary will give you a list of all lands of former President Jammeh that you need to investigate. We want to know what happens to those lands. We want to know the status of those lands," he said.

He hailed the investigators as experienced persons with the needed knowledge, skills and technical-know-how to investigate and present the needed report to government.

"You have been given the task to investigate the lands because you are trusted. Therefore, I am sure that you will deliver the reports in the next two months," he said.

He lamented that for sixty years the Gambia does not have a land policy that would dictate the administration and management of lands in the country.

He further told reporters that authorities often received complaints of land issues on several occasions, saying "if someone steals a car the person would be arrainged and prosecuted but some people have stolen lands in the country and they are walking in the streets freely," he argued.

Bah further argued that some Gambians have been defrauded for about 2 million dalasis and their perpetrators are walking freely in Gambians streets.”

However, he said the government will regulate the lands and will no longer allow “unacceptable land dealing in the country.”

Safie Sankareh, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs said: "The ministry is steadfast in its commitment to implement comprehensive reform programmes aimed at enhancing transparency, efficiency and sustainability in land management and governance."

PS Sankareh further said that the ministry's initiatives are designed to address longstanding issues, streamline processes, and ensure equitable access to lands for all.

She said the key areas of the ministry's reforms include modernising land administration; enhancing legal and regulatory frameworks; promoting sustainable land use; strengthening institutional capacity and increasing public participation.

"These reforms are essential for fostering a more transparent, accountable and inclusive land governance system. We aim to create a robust framework that supports sustainable development, promotes social justice and ensures a fair and equitable distribution of land resources for the benefits of all," she said.

Kebba Njie, chairman for Government Layouts and Reserve Lands committees commended the ministry for entrusting them with the investigations of land matters. He advised that there is a need for land policy in the country to ensure proper land administration and management.

Bai Mass Taal, chairman for the Tambi Wetland Committee said: "It is not going to be easy because some lands have been developed but the law is the law," he said.