Madi Jobarteh

(JollofNews) – Without doubt the Bakoteh dumpsite is not just an eyesore but constitutes a crime against the surrounding communities for the dangerous fumes it releases into homes and schools, particularly the SOS Children’s Village everyday. Many citizens in these communities suffer from respiratory diseases because of this dumpsite, which keeps burning day and night unabated. Why the Gambia Government and KMC would allow this site to exist until today is indeed a gross irresponsibility for which the National Assembly must take urgent steps. This dumpsite is an intolerable health hazard of enormous proportions and must not continue to exist in that place.

Therefore one of the first businesses of the new parliament must be to open an enquiry into the case of the Bakoteh dumpsite. Such an action would see them fulfill their duty to protect the right to health of residents surrounding this deplorable place.

For that matter there is no better place to start first than at KMC. In July 2015, it was reported in the media that KMC Mayor Yankuba Colley signed a 2.2. million euros contract with the CEO of JMP company Mario Pratolongo from Italy. The National Roads Authority together with the Ministry of Works was tasked to oversee the implementation of the project. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Dodou Senghore, DG of NRA at the time said the project was a huge relief for his native Bakoteh. Yankuba Colley himself said this was a special project aimed at finding a lasting solution to this pressing problem. The singing ceremony was witnessed by KMC councilors and community leaders.

Madi Jobarteh

One year later in April 2016, this project did not still kick off. Nothing was happening and when concerns were raised about the delay, the KMC public relations officer Fatoumatta Sillah amazingly told the media that KMC was not responsible for the delay. She told the Point newspaper that since KMC signed the contract one year ago, the Italian company was still transferring its equipment to the dumpsite in order to start work.

Fast forward to March 2017, which marks almost two years since the signing of the contract. Now the KMC through its Environment Manager Dodou Jallow speaking to Foroyaa newspaper said after all KMC never received the 2.2 million euros! This information came out after Bakoteh and Manjai committee members confronted KMC for failure of works to start.

The question now is this: Where is the 2.2. million euros that KMC Mayor Yankuba Colley signed with Mario Pratolongo in the presence of KMC councilors and community elders in the KMC offices? How did the story change from that signing ceremony to the transferring of equipment and finally to no money given to KMC? Where is the money? Meantime Bakoteh dumpsite continues to release dangerous smoke into our communities making our families sick in the middle of the biggest city in the Gambia?

Here is therefore the first task before the National Assembly. There must be a public parliamentary enquiry so that Gambians can hear from the horses’ mouth about who and what is responsible. That contract was real and the truth must come out. Those responsible must be held to account. That dumpsite must be removed.

I hereby call on the residents of Bakoteh, Manjai Kunda, Dippa Kunda, London Corner, Sanchaba, Kotu, Sukuta and environs as well as the schools and businesses in the area to pursue their NAMs to bring this matter to the parliament. These communities must also pursue Mayor Colley and their ward councilors to tell them where the 2.2 million euros went. Social justice activists must rise up to solidarise with the residents of these communities to demand justice and accountability.

If our NAMs, Councilors and the National Assembly fail to respond, let us come together to get a lawyer who will take the matter free of charge as a legitimate public interest case to the courts. If in the past we were afraid to pursue our legitimate public interests because of fear of arrests and harassment by the APRC Tyranny, let this new Gambia be a new dispensation where we will not leave any stone unturned in ensuring that justice prevails everywhere everyday. Let us demonstrate to ensure that the Government and KMC act on this dumpsite right now.

The continued presence of this dumpsite is already a violation of the right to health and human dignity of Gambians. Its continued presence is an act of impunity, which must not continue anymore. Let us organize to ensure that this dumpsite is removed by the government now. Youths, women, everyone, stand up for justice in your community!

God Bless The Gambia.