By Justice Sam and Landing Badjie our Banjul Bureau Chief

At least dozens people have been detained by the Gambian police for merely defying President Yahya Jammeh’s “clean the nation” call. A major scuffle ensued at the Welligara Market, Kombo North on Saturday, when armed police and paramilitary officers tried to use force to disperse the market women. The Market women refused to close their stalls as they insist that Jammeh’s “forced slavery” in the name of cleaning the nation must come to an end. The women were busy attending their early morning customers who stormed the market as early as 7 o clock.  An order issued by the police for the women to vacate the market premises to join the local community to clean the streets of Welligara was ignored by the petty traders. A reinforcement armed paramilitary team  later arrived at the scene, where they forcefully beat up, maimed and arrest anybody found loitering around the market area. During  the process of the fracas, monies were looted and there was significant damage to property.

Our Banjul Bureau Chief Landing Badjie, who witnessed the scuffle says some of  the market women were beaten up severely by the armed guards. Welligara at some point reached a stage of lawlessness, as angry youths stormed the market looting whatever they can lay their hands on. Market stalls were damaged by the looters. The looters went away with rice, meat, cooking oil, money and other materials. It took several hours before the police could dosed the mounting tensions.

Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh decreed that the country should be clean every last Saturday of the month. During the cleansing exercise,  traffic is brought to complete hault. All vehicles be it- commercial or private must ground their cars, until the cleansing exercise is call off by the Organizing committee. Motorists who take the risk to ply the roads during such environmental cleaning are often beaten up and dump in jail. They also had their cars damaged by the arresting officers.

Despite concerns raised by some observers over economic loss such programs caused the nation’s already battered economy, the President is still keen at exposing our people to what many here called “civilized slavery.” People are being forced to clean their our backyards.

Meanwhile , over dozen people mainly women and men are detained at the Welligara police station.  Police have set bail bond for the detainees. The male detainees are required to deposit  a bond of D1000 dalasis, while the female detainees were asked  to deposit D500 bail bond with a Gambian surety. Failure of which, they would continue to languish in police custody. The detainees have been charged with not responding to President Jammeh’s call to clean the nation. They were also charged with causing unruly behavior and as well as breaching the public order act.

In a related development, President Jammeh has been accused of  living to the expense of the poor tax payers. His unfinished social activities is becoming a concern to Gambians. As a result of public criticism, the Gambian leader had postponed the beach party he promised to organize for his party supporters.

Posted on Sunday, July 29, 2007 (Archive on Monday, August 27, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI
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