After intense lobbying involving Kombo elders – religious and village heads – the people of Kartong have lifted a ban on five villagers. The reversal of ban also came in the wake of a meeting at the community center, the exact venue where the ban had been announced.
At an early January meeting, economic and social sanctions were slapped on Lamin Jamba Jammeh, Councillor of Kartong Ward; Omar Jabang, a Geology Officer; Dawda Manneh, Ablie Bambo Touray and Palili Demba for betraying their villagers.
Informed sources said the reversal was triggered by proposal to levy sanction on village head Alh. Demba Jabang and his cohorts for writing a letter of apology to President Yahya Jammeh without getting approval from the villagers. Youths said “fusion of politics into what is purely communal makes the fight distasteful.” But some elders thought there is urgent need to diffuse anything that would “breed disunity and uncertainty” in the coastal village hence the need to mend fences before it is too late. One source accused Alkalo Jabang of summoning an emergency meeting and warned against “planting seeds of discord” in the village.
The victims, who have been pained by the sanction, described it as somehow a “witch hunt.” But the Chairman of the village taskforce committee, Kwame Jarju, said each individual was sanctioned for their role in the December 3rd 2015 fiasco, which led to the arrest, detention and torture of 33 Kartong youths protesting against illegal sand and mineral mining in their backyard. Some were punished for aiding the paramilitary police officers while others got slapped for using harsh words against protesting youths.
The sanctions were originally meant to be indefinite and subject to appeal. Clemency could be considered only after the sanctioned individuals write letters of apology expressing regret. The sanctioned individuals neither admitted nor apologised but have become sanction-free. The reversal has not got everyone’s endorsement, with some disgruntled youths attributing it to a “political appeasement.”
Now that the sanction regime is over Kartong villagers are trying to heal the wounds, which according to our source, will be difficult. For some hardliners, the lifted sanctions have not healed their licking wounds. Another issue causing rift in the village is the letter of apology. The youths want to know who might have written the letter signed by the alkalo. No one claims responsibility, a source confirmed.
Some progressive youths think Kartong desperately needs unity to consolidate gains in the fight to protect its immediate environment from sand and mineral mining.