Gambia’s civic education agency; National Council for Civil Education (NCCE) is holding a series of engagement with the country’s local authorities on land, environment and natural resources matters  to minimise land disputes.

Last Friday, the agency held a day dialogue forum with stakeholders from various communities in West Coast Region at the governor’s office in Brikama.

West Coast Region is apparently the most controversial region in land dispute in the Gambia. This is because majority of undeveloped land are available in that area of the country.

The theme of the forum was: Promoting dialogue and adherence to the rule of law to sustain peace. The forum also enhanced awareness of rights and responsibilities and how to seek redress when one’s right is allege to be violated.

The agency’s chairman, Alhagie Sering Fye, said the country’s peace that earned the admiration of many other countries is now being continually threatened and appealed to people to join efforts in nurturing the peaceful coexistence the country is known for.

He said the country belongs to all Gambians irrespective of their affiliation and called on people to learn to respect one another, respect authority and understand their respective mandates.

He emphasised that democracy is not a system that gives people whatever they demand at a given moment, or in the shortest possible time, but one that calls for respect for the rule of law at all time.

Last month, young people of Faraba Banta village in Kombo East, some 51km from Banjul clashed with the Police Intervention Unit following their question for answers on how a sand mining company, Julakay Engineering and Construction Company, acquired licence to conduct sand mining in their community. Three people were killed in the protest when the officers fired lived ammunition on the villagers.

Mr. Fye said when a person is aggrieve to the extent that he cannot compromise, there are several mechanisms he could utilise to peacefully access justice without getting to conflict.

Governor Bakary K. Sanyang observed that since the coming of the ‘New Gambia’ there is a rise in conflict and demonstration with some unfortunate and tragic consequences as happened recently in Faraba Banta, most of which are caused by land or environment disputes.

He called for the maintenance of stability and peaceful coexistence the country is known for, adding that both the central government and its agencies and local authorities have important roles to play not only within but across to other stakeholders.

In May, police detained eight residents of Bafuloto village following their involvement in an attack on law enforcement officials and those of the Department of Physical Planning as they attempted to pull down illegal structures in that village and its environs.

Governor Sanyang reminded village heads to take the lead in settling land disputes between families and communities, saying one quality a good village head should possess is knowledge in customs, traditions, culture and customary law of the village he is heading.

He expressed his readiness to continue working with chiefs in supporting village heads to promote and maintain peace in their respective localities.

“Government recognises the need for every citizen to exercise their rights without infringing on the right of others.”

Interior Minister Ebrima Mballow said to restore trust and confidence in citizens within communities and between communities and the government, there must be dialogue.

He said it is incumbent on all citizens to be law abiding and to refrain from any form of violence, while urging all Gambians to follow due process of the law, to be conscious of each other’s rights and to have trust and confidence in the authority.

Chief of Kombo North, Momodou Bojang, urged all Alkalolu to be vigilant and to be peacemakers.