Kindly grant me space to express my utmost solidarity with the people of Kartong in their quest to bring to the notice of the authorities the threat of ecological and environmental damage facing our village. I also wish to cease this chance to express my condolences to the family of Momodou Lamin Jatta; the young sixth grader who drowned in one of the mining pits last Eid.
Although the youth, via their own media, declared to peacefully protest against sand mining near the village, it appears that their recent action was preceded by a prolonged period of repeated attempts to make known their concerns and grievances to numerous authorities.
It is unfortunate that what was designed as a peaceful protest is now a matter to be settled in the courts, following charges leveled against more than thirty individuals many of whom are natives of Kartong. Juridical processes such as this could be potentially divisive for the societal fabric of the village. I recall painfully how the traumatic aftermath of the failed Kukoi uprising of July 1981, turned villagers against one another. All of us natives of Kartong must be mindful of such a painful prospect.
I want also to register my concern that some youth leaders appear not to recognize the fact that the collision of the interests of the village and that of the politics of plunder can impossibly be anything other than powerfully political. Besides, such a matter cannot be the concern of the people of Kartong only. It is an incendiary national issue and all Gambians need to treat it that way, in the hope of working together with the concerned authorities to reach settlements as peacefully as possible; especially in other coastal towns where public safety is threatened by poorly controlled and/or inadequately regulated sand mining.
Finally, although it appears that villagers of Kartong have not filed any claims in the courts for the state to redress the grave loss of Momodou Lamin Jatta to his family, my hope is that other coastal villages and towns would take their cue to engage the government and environmental agencies, the department of geology in particular, to address the issue of sand mining in order to avoid repeated loss of life elsewhere. When that happens, the tragic and untimely death of very young Momodou would not have been in vain.
Momodou S Sidibeh,