Environmental Advocacy Group Encounters Ministerial Opposition in the Struggle to Safeguard Gambia’s Forests

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Omar Malmo Sambou, an environmental activist and co-founder of Green-Up Gambia

By: Alieu Ceesay

Omar Malmo Sambou, the environmental activist and co-founder of Green-Up Gambia, expressed his frustration and determination regarding the Ministry of Environment’s decision to decline their invitation to discuss crucial environmental and ecological issues with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Rohey John Manjang.

In an interview with TAT, the UTG Lecturer, concerns were centered on protecting forestry from hazards.

“This park is one of the few forest ecologies within urban Gambia, home to several species of wildlife, including IUCN endangered species,” he says. “The continuous encroachment on the park will lead to irreversible biodiversity loss.”

Sambou is a member of an advocacy group working to tackle pressing environmental concerns in the Gambia, especially the consequences of the decision to de-reserve the Nianibere Forest and Monkey Park. Their initiatives, however, have encountered an obstacle as the environment minister has declined to meet with the team.

“We wrote to President Barrow on burning environmental matters after attempts to discuss with the minister failed in several encounters,” he explains. “The President referred us to the Minister, but she didn’t meet us. We’ve also been inviting her to events, including the official launching of our climate circles project funded by the U.S. Forest Service, which she never honored.”

The advocacy team’s frustration stems from the refusal and the broader implications of such a stance. “The minister, in my view, intends to deliberately stifle and boycott civil society in an attempt to silence us on burning environmental issues of national concern,” says Omar.

For the advocacy group, this refusal is more than a bureaucratic hurdle: “If a minister who doesn’t have any expertise in a field she is leading is unwilling to listen, uninterested in inclusive participation of all stakeholders, that’s detrimental to our environment. She is busy de-reserving our sensitive ecologies without regard. It’s a shame when the protector turns the destructor. Her actions aren’t democratic, inclusive, or guided by knowledge. It’s an attempt to silence civil society.”

Despite these challenges, the advocacy team remains resolute. “We will not relent in our efforts,” he declares. “The Minister cannot shut us down. We will continue to contribute to national development and give our opinions on matters of national concern. We will continue to work with stakeholders for better environmental governance without fear or favor.”

The stakes are high, and the team’s commitment is steadfast as they strive to ensure that Gambia’s forests and the wildlife they harbor are conserved for future generations.

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