Lamin Darboe (Leicester)

The people of Gunjur have spoken and the time of uncharacteristic collective impotence is over. Our prominent and courageous leader Dr Amadou Janneh and the dynamic youths have thrown the gauntlet.

As expected, the courageous people of Gunjur stand firmly behind him as he matches to confront the cowardly and blatant act of environmental rape hatched by Golden Lead Ltd abated by the Governments of the Gambia in utter disregard to our humble pleas for sustainable exploitation of our environment.

The indignation has been building for the past two years, the tears and cries for redress has fallen on deaf ears for long. The government seems to prefer silence and political indifference as a weapon to undermine us supposedly in fear of upsetting their economic benefactors, the Chinese government. It not a surprise that the Chinese link economic assistance to unfettered access to beneficiary country’s natural resources often with use of atrocious environmental methods of operations.

There is pervasive feeling that the government is manifestly prolonging our suffering while dismissing us as a bunch of miscreants and disgruntled trouble makers with an anathema to much-needed development for the wider community.

A development viewed through the lenses of a paradigm of unsustainable exploitation of a sea and land resources which leave in its wake a catastrophic degradation of the environment.

A paradigm that does not factor sustainability to replenish the flora and fauna to ensure generations that follows are with pristine resources which our ancestors bequeathed to us. I trust that if our ancestors were as short-sighted and greedy as we are, wantonly exploit our resources as we do now, Gunjur would not have been attractive to diverse communities from all corners of the sub-region.

An ill-conceived and sterile development paradigm that neglect the economic, health and environment impact on the live of the communities in the surrounding fishing villages vis-a-vis the manufacturing and waste disposal processes of Chinese fishing plant. A plant which is  arrogantly stationed on pristine beach between a marine, fresh water and fragile ecosystems in vicinity with a potential to cause river pollution with cancer causing  dioxins as suspected by our indigenous scientist.

The pollution is killing thousands of fish every day

Why the government continues to challenge our patience and moral composure with indignity and evasive tactics seeking to show the seed of dissension and discord in our community. Set a brother against brother, youths against the elders akin to the British colonial tactics supported and encouraged by a recalcitrant Chinese family who shamelessly abrogated all their commitments to the people of Gunjur.

What these Chinese aliens are doing is illegal from the point of view of our customary laws and precedence, from government laws as well as NEA environmental regulations. From customary precedence, the factory is stationed on misappropriated land. The customary laws of Gunjur presupposes land ownership based on communal tenure system akin to many places in the Gambia.

The Land issued to anyone is given with conditions enshrined with good propriety and sustainable management but the Chinese defiled all these conditions with impudence and untamed effrontery satisfied with the backing and encouragement of our own short-sighted people. The land was subtly force-purchased from a Gunjur denizen who was bullied to succumb to the Chinese aggressive tactics.

Secondly from the point of view of Gambia laws, the environment is central to economic development of any nation at least on paper and I have no doubt Gambian law promulgate sustainable exploitation of both sea and land resources. It is no secret that  politicians and greedy government officials and its local surrogates  all over Africa help alien companies especially Chinese to flout those laws.

Finally, NEA had through verbal as well as written communications confirmed that they investigated the reported incidence of the environment destruction of Golden lead and concluded that their operations are  not only damaging, perhaps  irredeemably endangering  environment and the fragile ecosystems in the vicinity of their operations.

Gunjur youths confronting the management of Golden Leaf

 

Their waste disposal system and operations are unfriendly and cause great inconvenience to the locals. It’s disposal of unknown and apparently unidentified chemical substances and waste products into the sea had the potential to destroy the marine life. That its fishing methods lacks transparency and are consciously designed to deplete the fish stock in few years.

As I intimated in my previous articles, the people of Gunjur rely heavily for income generation, healthy and cheap source protein from their sea for centuries. That is now in jeopardy necessitated by the short-sighted greed and complicity of our own people and the callousness of the Chinese operators.

After the court case dragged for months, demonstrations and interventions by NEA, the Chinese still has the foolhardiness to stick their finger out and snare at us with indignity and mockery.
Can any African company do this ugly and dastardly act of heedless environment destruction in China and you stay for a month. If the Government of China did not act, the people will take the law into their own hands and burn down the plant because it threatens their livelihood for generations.

The people of Gunjur have been patient for long because we thought the new government will act in our best interest.

In last few months the Golden Lead challenge us with more blatantly. They unsuspectedly dislodged their stench and corrosive waste in a place near Kitty and people of that area were confronted with an unbearable ambience that induce nausea and a sickly feeling. The NEA and other agencies as well as the area council visited the spot and compiled their report but up to now, no tangible action has been taken..why?

This is a monstrosity and aberration of natural justice; a disappointing abdication of responsibility by the reigning government which was sworn to protect our lives and livelihood, our health and our environment.

As if to signal that they don’t care, the Chinese construct a pier on the beach without the approval of the  people of Gunjur and the NEA. To smear salt to our wounds, they connect a pipe from the plant to sea to pump dangerous industrial waste directly into the sea. No one except the Chinese know exactly what is being pumped into to sea. The pictures of the pipe are widely circulated in the media especially online.

Few days ago the people of Gunjur woke up to a pungent and outrageously foul stench blown by the wind in the direction of the town. It was so obnoxious and pervasive that the youths have to mobilise to confront the Chinese company physically.

How long can we stand by while an alien family of three greedy Chinese bent on self-enrichment at expense of lives and the lives our families and we cannot do anything about it?

How long can our rights to clean and sustainable environment be usurped by a callous and malevolent family unit in form of a Chinese man, his wife and son and we ride on  impotency?

Is this the democracy we gallantly fought for La wallai, by all means we thought and aspired for meaningful change from an unrepentant dictatorship to blooming democracy for better living standard and respect for our human rights?

Our politicians especially  KKB, the local member of Parliament and Dr Isatou Touray (the Trade minister) and our own paramount business tycoon Mr Conteh failed us utterly. Gunjurians shall not forget and forgive those who aid the rape of our environment, directly or indirectly. And they be warned that the history of Gunjur when written shall not look kindly on them. For history never forgive those who collaborate with non-Gambians to destroy the livelihood of defenceless people and their environment.

In the turn of this century political imperialism has been subjugated by economic imperialism and it seem to be a conscious paradigm constructed and instrumentalized to subvert the future of Africans. It evinced a scramble for Africa’s resources untapped by European imperialist in ways that is even more diabolical by taking advantage of the myopic and unscrupulous politicians and their docile officials.

The pipe disharging toxic waste in the sea

Often disguised as strategic and symbiotic economic partnership that envisages skill transfer and infrastructural development for both host government and access to markets and resources for the Chinese.

They understand the psychology that a poor man has no choice but acquiesce to a bait of economic and ill-conceived infrastructural support, albeit a support which is not linked to wider developmental needs of partner countries. One that will shrewdly place those partner on the prism of perpetual consumers of often look quality but cheap Chinese products. To be a country that lack industrial and manufacturing base to compete in the world economic realm as progressive nations whose people will be respected and adored for their good management and economic propriety.

The Gambia need development put not at any cost to the live and health of our people. We need development partners who care for our environment and respect the dignity of our people. Not parasitic partners with eye on superficial returns that jeopardise our own local industries and indirectly impoverish our people.

Written by Lamin Darboe

Leicester