By: Kebba Ansu Manneh
Fifteen landlords and their families in Busumbala have been issued eviction notices by the Sheriff Division of the High Court after a legal tussle between one Paul Mendy of Jambur and Saratta Drammeh of Dippa Kunda over a vast piece of land, now lawfully inhabited by the affected families.
Visiting the community of Busumbala on Wednesday, 25th October 2023, TAT unraveled that four out of fifteen families had already been forcefully evicted by officials from the Sheriff Division accompanied by Paramilitary Officers while the rest wallowed and whined in despair and hopelessness, calling on the government to urgently come to their aid, as they face the risk of being on the streets once the eviction notice elapsed.
The troubled families told this medium that they were utterly helpless after lawfully bought and inhabited their compounds from Paul Mendy with correct documents. Still, the District Tribunal ruled in favor of Saratta Drammeh, who served them vacation notice, leaving them in limbo and despondency.
Omar Dem, a family head of 14 and compound owner starkly faced with eviction, has disclosed that he bought the piece of land from Paul Mendy more than 15 years ago and has regularly paid rates and taxes to the Alkalo of Busumbala. He said the notice had and continues to have devastating impacts on his family.
“We are in a tough situation as the Sheriff Division carries on with the eviction of families, most of whom are in similar or harsh conditions than myself. Already four families have been thrown out with all their belongings littered in the streets because they have nowhere to go,” Omar Dem, a victim, disclosed to TAT.
He added: “We have all bought our compounds legally from Paul Mendy and have been paying our taxes to the Alkalo of Busumbala, but to our surprise, we are asked to leave because of the district tribunal’s judgment in favor of Saratta Drammeh of Dippa Kunda. We have nowhere to go, especially with our large families. Therefore, we call on government and local authorities to rescue us as some affected families slept on the street last night.”
Another Victim, Mamadou Sey, revealed that he bought his compound in 2010 and has invested everything he has in the plot where he currently lives with his family, saying that the eviction comes at a terrible time for him and his family as they have nowhere to relocate.
“Right now, our situation is unfortunate and disturbing as we are asked to vacate our compounds before we are forced to do so, but we cannot as we have nowhere to go. We have already engaged Paul Mendy, from whom we bought our plots, but at the moment, we haven’t seen any tangible step taken by him to address our troubling situations,” Mamadou Sey said with a touch of empathy.
He added: “I have more than fifteen people living with me, including my wife, children and other family members. However, with the prevailing situation, we are desperate and frustrated and do not know what to do next. Finding another place to accommodate such a huge family is difficult to secure.”
Julie Mbye disclosed to TAT that her family was the first to be kicked out from their compound at a time when her husband was at work, noting that it was around 11 a.m. when officials of the Sheriff Division accompanied by Paramilitary Officers who stormed their compound and ordered everyone to leave including a disabled brother of her husband, lamenting that the bulk of the family members are school going children whose education have been affected by the forced eviction.
She also underscored that after a brief exchange with the eviction exercise, Paramilitary Police Officers accompanying the evictors stormed their house, pulling out everything, adding that everything inside their home was being thrown outside. She claimed that their compound gate is locked to prevent them from entering the compound anymore.
“Our situation is appalling. My husband spent everything he has worked for in this compound and has been paying taxes to Busumbala Alkalo, but to our surprise, we have been evicted. I can tell you we have nowhere to go except to sleep outside on the streets until the authorities intervene on our behalf as citizens of this country,” Julie Mbye told TAT with concern.
This medium also spoke with Paul Mendy, who allegedly sold out the fifteen (15) compounds to their current occupants, expressing his grief and sorry towards the affected families in the community and has promised to take up the matter with the authorities.
According to him, the said vast piece of land was an inheritance from his father that was entrusted to the Alkalo of Busumbala in 1983, noting that it was only in 1999 when he finally decided to clear the land and sell part of it to the buyers (the 15 affected landlords).
He added that it was only in 2021 when Saratta Drammeh came forth to claim land ownership. He approached his lawyer, who took up the matter to the courts at Brikama, which later sermon Saratta Drammeh but never appeared at the court to answer to the claims.
He further asserted that, to his surprise, Saratta Drammeh has instead sermoned him to the Kombo North District Tribunal after she failed to appear at the courts in Brikama, adding that the Tribunal Court judged in favor of Saratta Drammeh even though the High Court in Brikama placed an injunction on the said land.
He called on the local authorities and Gambia Government to intervene in addressing the matter rather than throwing the families out of their compounds that they legally owned, while also calling on the Brikama High Court to expedite the case and speedily resolve the issue before it slips out of hand.
Meanwhile, the director of press and public relations at the office of the President, Amie Bojang-, promises to provide more information about the relevant authorities after TAT reaches her for comments.
“Thank you for reaching out. I have reached out to get the information, and I will share it when I receive it,’ She told TAT in a brief message.