Madi Jabarteh

By:Madi Jobarteh 

It is indeed extremely worrying that the governments of both The Gambia and the United States have decided to finally kill Monkey Park hence subject its inhabitants to a life of misery and destitution. The assault on this sanctuary manifestly and totally constitute cruelty to animals who are already ravaged by the construction of Kairaba international conference centre and other encroachments. For that reason, these animals can now be seen roaming and scavenging for food in homes, hotels, restaurants, and streets thus posing irreparable risks to their health.

Wild animals do not eat manufactured food because their system is not meant for that. This is why in nature reserves, there are signs urging visitors not to feed wild animals with human food.

Knowing this, yet the US and Gambia governments still went ahead to allocate the site for the building of the US embassy. This is an assault on this sanctuary thereby effectively bringing to an end the very existence of Monkey Park and its natural inhabitants. This decision is a direct threat to nature and shall hugely contribute to global warming simply because of the destruction of the vegetation there. No amount of tree planting will fully replace all of the plants and grass that are in this park. Building an embassy there will only kill more plants than replace them.

Furthermore, this decision is only good at denying future generations of Gambians and visitors the opportunity to experience the park with its vast biodiversity. It means future generations will not see these special and beautiful monkeys who would have either died or migrated to unsuitable locations thus not to be seen again. This is why the decision to build the US embassy in this place is grossly ill-advised and an utter act of irresponsibility by both governments.

With the US itself being a global perpetrator in producing emissions as well as leading the world in addressing climate change, it beats imagination how they could consider this site a proper place for their embassy. Was it not under Pres. Obama that the US led the Paris convergence on the climate that led to the emergence of the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a binding international treaty aimed at strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change. It seeks to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees and even bring it further down to 1.5 Celsius. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015.

The US was a leading convener and player of that conference where Secretary of State John Kerry led the American delegation. It is that same Kerry who was picked by Biden as his climate envoy because of his efficiency, contributions, and commitment to climate change.

Both the US and The Gambia have signed the agreement since 2016. Even when President Donald Trump removed the US from the agreement in 2020, we saw how Pres. Joe Biden returned the US to it by singing it again in January 2021. Therefore, how can the US and The Gambia flatly ignore their international obligations to arrest global warming by attacking the Monkey Park?

Furthermore, this decision by these two governments is a direct affront to the efforts of Pres. Dawda Jawara who was a determined and committed environmentalist. It was his government that signed a unilateral commitment to the environment when he issued the Banjul Declaration in 1977 to protect and preserve the environment.

Here are some of his reasons for creating that declaration,

“I signed The Banjul Declaration in 1977 – to complement legislation to protect our flora and fauna. I was doing so perhaps many decades too late to save the lion and Leopard whose numbers had been so dangerously depleted to virtual non-existence. The remaining dozens of them roam the protected ranges of Nykolokoba in Senegal, as they used to do a century ago in upper Gambia. Our last elephant in Kantora was shot dead in 1900’s by a European travelling commissioner.”

In his speech, Jawara expressed his concern and disturbance at seeing the environment destroyed, noting that the destruction of the forest is a threat to human survival, civilization and knowledge. Today, The Gambia and US governments have dealt a mercilessly destructive blow to Jawara and human survival and civilization. Clearly, just as my generation lost sight of the lion and leopard in the Gambia, with this embassy construction my grandchildren and their generation will also not see the Western Red Colobus Monkeys!

I therefore urge the US Government through its Ambassador in The Gambia to withdraw from this decision. There are many suitable locations around the Gambia for an embassy that meets the requirements of the United States Government. I urge the Ambassador to pursue those options. Monkey Park does not need any plant to be uprooted on the basis that US experts will come to manage it.

I urge The Gambia Government to remind itself of its obligations to Gambians, today and tomorrow. The Minister of Justice cannot claim not to be aware of these international obligations hence has the capacity to and should advise and guide the Government accordingly. Going ahead with this decision will constitute a violation of Gambia’s domestic and international obligations. The Monkey Park has been a gazetted and protected sanctuary since1951. It should not be assaulted.  

I wish to call on CSOs more so our environment-related organisations such as ActionAid The Gambia, United Purpose, ADWAC, and with TANGO and many more including environmental activists to respond to this environmental onslaught without delay. CSOs should not stand by in silence and indifference to allow such blatant destruction of nature and the future to take place and in total violation of the law with impunity.

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