#National News

Diaspora Community in Gambia reacts to Lands Minister’s comments

Dec 15, 2020, 12:19 PM

Following an article published on social media Facebook by What'sOn Gambia, an online news outlet on 9/12/2020 on the headline; "Minister warns Gambians against selling land to Diaspora Africans.

The said article alleges that "Land owners in the country have been advised against leasing or selling land to African Americans, Black British and even Caribbean living in the country.

The Lands Minister was alleged to have made these remarks whilst speaking in Essau during President Barrow ‘Meet the People Tour’.

"The minister alleged that some of the Diaspora Africans are ‘land grabbers’ and added that ‘they claim to be investors, but some of them are land grabbers. They want your land. Before you sign any document make sure you conduct background checks on them’ the minister allegedly stated.

It was in that regard that the Diasporan Community in The Gambia have strongly reacted to the said allegations, describing it as discriminatory and disappointing and disrespectful to them and their ancestors who were kidnapped during slavery.

For Adrian Ryan- vice chair of Council of African Descendants (COAD) and co-founder of BlaXit, this type of news is terrible for Gambia and Gambians, as it is unguarded statements could cause a huge amount of damage.

“Generalistic statements like this that only added insult to injury. African Descendants are already discriminated against when they came to live in The Gambia. They already face barriers for land ownership with limitations with regard, the amount of land eg. 50x50sqm maximum and time limitations combined with a 15 years wait for citizenship through naturalisation. Our call for Automatic Citizenship despite multiple public appeals and depositing-232- names of potential investors and-72- written- submissions to the CRC was ignored alongside request to meet with the President for over 1 year has still not responded to a request for a public comment by Ebrima Sankareh after 1 year of asking and a meeting was still not had.”

“We feel like outcasts rejected by our own people when conversely we see Arabs and other nationals such as Lebanese, Indians, Chinese and white Europeans and white Americans and white British not getting any back lash or challenge and they own huge areas of land in The Gambia such as Makasutu and Bonto, Banjul etc. This may be construed by Diasporans and African Descendant Gambian residents as discrimination and possibly even defamation. Our forebears were taken into captivity into slavery by force. Is this our welcome back home? No Automatic Citizenship and now no home either? We welcome comment from the Government to clarify the situation.”

However, a statement issued by Ebraima Sankareh, spokesperson for the government on the 9th of December states; “In the wake of wide spread reports attributing to discriminatory remarks to the Local Government Minister about land grabbing, The Gambia Government wishes to allay the fears of Diaspora Gambians that the remarks attributed to Musa Drammeh are totally false and grossly exaggerated to potentially smear the image of the minister and the Barrow Government.”

On the contrary, on day one of the President’s tour, Minster Drammeh cautioned farmers in Essau and Lamin villages in the Lower Nuimi and Upper Nuimi Districts respectively to be weary of some foreigners posing as genuine investors “who may eventually end up seizing their lands and rendering them landless as happened in Zimbabwe and South Africa during colonization."

"The Gambia government wants to make it very clear that neither the Local Government Minister nor the Government itself, ever made discriminatory remarks towards Diaspora Gambians and other ethnic groups or Diaspora Africans as being falsely circulated on some networks and gossip columns."

Nyancho Kujabi Nee- Juliet Ryan, co-founder of BlaXit YouTube channel, who is also a Pan Africanist and was instrumental in encouraging her fellow African Descendants to come home, stated "This Problem lies not just in this article released by What’sOn Gambia or it's rebuttal by Ebrahima Sankareh. But in the wider approach towards us African Descendants, who have the right to return home.

“We have appealed for Automatic Citizenship to be revived as it was given by the previous governments President Jawara and President Yaya Jammeh to African Descendants. Although we gave submissions to the CRC and it was acknowledged, it was not enacted into the constitution. That was insulting and very hurtful and definitely discriminatory. As I read some of the positive and negative comments on the What’sOn Gambia post. I realised there is a fundamental need to address the issue which has been overlooked and possibly ignored since 2014-2016. As Automatic Citizenship was granted by the previous administration at the Roots Homecoming Festival, the negative comments have shown us that there is a need for desensitization of the populace and this could have been done at the Meet the People’s Tour. However this was probably not considered as we still remain an invisible portion of the community as demonstrated when we were not important enough for the constitution.”

“On one hand I received an Integration Certificate into the Kujabi family in Busura from Alkalo Faye and National Assembly member Lamin J. Sanneh of Brikama South and feeling proud of belonging somewhere and included by being co- opted into the Busura VDC only to read alleged inflammatory comments about.

"Black British, "African Americans" and "Caribbean" being "Land Grabbers" or being warned off selling lands to us! You can’t imagine how disappointed I felt. This only highlights the elephant in the room. Automatic Citizenship a subject we are still waiting for a Government response to. Which is over one year overdue? However we can see that when it is considered 'important' urgent responses can be given to what is considered a priority. Unfortunately we are not seen as a priority as we are still being overlooked. If this isn't discrimination what is it?”

Chairman of COAD (The Council of African Descendants) Luke McKenzie said the government and the Minister need to have a meeting with the African Descendants and Diasporans.

“There needs to be a meeting with Musa Drammeh to clarify the situation. We are receiving many messages on social media and phone calls. People are worried, especially those who already have properties in The Gambia and those that are yet to come."

 

"There are even more alarmed that this was not said about the Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Europeans, English and other ethnic groups that come and treat locals badly and do not reinvest but take their profits out of the country".

They thus call for an immediate dialogue between Diasporans- "Black British, African Americans" and Caribbean" allegedly stated by What’sOn Gambia that were allegedly accused of Land Grabbing.

“We appreciate the swift action by the Government to allay fears. But social media has already spread the information worldwide and it has to be discussed as an urgent issue with the President, vice president, Foreign Minister, Minister of Interior, Communications and Information Minister with COAD- The Council of African Descendants and BlaXit with great urgency as we are tired of feeling discriminated against and ignored by The Government.”

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