By Abdoulie John
Traders and street vendors at Serekunda market are not warming for better relations, with each group continuing to stand firm on its ground. Both sides claim their members move is ‘legally justified.’
The spiraling bad blood comes in the wake of crisis at one of The Gambia’s busiest markets.
“We did nothing wrong in occupying the streets to sell our merchandise,” Mouhamed Lô told this medium.
Last Tuesday, one of the country’s biggest markets was turned into a battleground as an Intifada
[commotion] erupted between traders and street vendors over the “Wanterr” [annual pre-Eid sales], forcing authorities to deploy security forces in the area to restore law and order.
Mouhamed Lô, who is a young Senegalese national, decried the fact they were subjected to ‘unjustified attacks’ by traders.
“We paid business tax due to Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) to be allowed to do “Wanterr” in the area,” he added. “We cannot just jump and occupy the streets without having an authority from the municipality.”
Speaking under conditions of anonymity, a female vendor reiterated the close ties between Senegal and The Gambia, urging people to desist from embarking in xenophobic rants.
“What happened that day was unfortunate, and could have been avoided. We are just trying to earn an honest living,” she voiced out.
Vendors who conduct business along the roads at Serrekunda market are mainly from neighbouring Senegal. They are accused of causing obstructions to automobilists, motorists and pedestrians.
With a bandage wrapped around his head, Abdou Niang said he was stoned by traders while on his way to Serrekunda market main building to collect his camera.
“I am a street vendor and got caught in the middle of the fight,” he said. “I was not part of the standoff opposing street vendors and traders.”
To many traders, vendors occupying the roads leading to the market are affecting their income.
The President of One Gambia Serrekunda Market Foundation, Modou Ceesay, who spoke to this reporter rubbished claims made by street vendors, saying that stands and shops are still available inside the market.
“The agreement we reached with the authorities still stands,” he said while insisting that “Wanterr” is no more allowed.
“Streets vendors have to come to inside and occupy “Mbarri” Dembo Sonko, which can accommodate more than 100 stands,” Ceesay said.
A conducted tour inside the market corroborated his assertion as “Mbarri” Dembo Sonko continues to remain unoccuppied. The hall can accommodate more than 100 stands. He then added that 31 shops are left gathering dust for more than a year.
Similar sentimens were re-echoed by One Gambia Serrekunda Market Foundation, Fatou Pierre Choye.
“All this mess was caused by the Serrekunda Market Manager Dodou Gomez,” she deplored.
In an attempt to spill the beans, Fatou P. Choye said Dodou Gomez is misleading KMC official Kanjoura and Lord Mayor Talib Bensouda.
“Why did he advise them to restore the “Wanterr” sale show knowing very well it was banned in the market?” she quizzed.
Dodou Gomez for comments on the allegations mounted against him.