By Yankuba Jallow
The High Court on the 12th October 2017 declared that the people of Kerr Mot Hali are Gambians and have a right to return to the Gambia.
This court order couldn’t be enforced for over 20 months because the office of the Attorney-General maintains that the execution should stay even though he was restrained by the High Court from stopping the people of Kerr Mot Hali from occupying their land.
The court also declared that the Appellants (indigenes of Kerr Mot Hali) and each of them at all material times are the owners and are entitled to possession of their properties situated at Kerr Mot Hali and also it is their right to take their properties at the village that were taken from them compulsorily.
These people fled to a neighbouring village in Senegal when they were threatened by police officers who arrested many of them and detained many as well. Since 14th January 2009 to date, they have been leaving under refuge in Senegal and the current Government is yet to show serious effort for their return to The Gambia.
The Sherriff’s Division of the High Court has written to the Operations Commander of the Gambia Police Force to provide them with an escort to execute the court judgment but all these efforts were unsuccessful because of the intervention of the office of the Attorney-General. The three letters were dated 7th February 2018, 20th February 2018 and 12th March 2019.
The laws of the Gambia are such that the Government and all departments and agencies (including the Ministry of Justice) shall accord such assistance to the courts as the courts may reasonably require to protect their independence, dignity and effectiveness.
Kerr Mot Hali village is in Upper Saloum, Central River Region of the country and is known for its religious sectionalism under the Mourid leader Muhamadoul Habibulah Secka (Sering Ndigal) who passed away in the year 2007.
Since Yahya A.J.J. ceased to be president, the people of the Kerr Mot Hali resorted to the High Court seeking for a declaration that their fundamental human rights have been violated. In this suit before the High Court, the indigenes of Kerr Mot Hali sued the Gambia Police Force, the Attorney General, the Governor of the Central River Region (CRRC), Sheikh Seca (the current alkalo) and others. These people brought the action before Justice Aminata Ceesay-Saho of the Banjul High Court seeking for a declaration that they are all citizens of the Gambia who have right over their properties and have a right to return to the country because they have been deprived their right over their properties in the village.
The court in its judgment dated 12th October 2017 held that the people of Kerr Mot Hali (applicants) are all citizens of the Gambia and property owners at Kerr Mot Hali in Upper Saloum District of the Central River Region, a village believed to be founded in the year 1777 by one marabout named Mot Hali. The Applicants succeeded in all their pleas.
In addition, the Court issued an injunction restraining the Respondents, whether by themselves, their servants or agents or whosoever, from dealing with, entering or remaining, or alienating or otherwise interfering with the Appellants properties situated at Kerr Mot Hali.
The Court granted a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents (the government, the Governor, the current alkalo and the attorney general) from preventing the indigenes from taking possession and occupying their respective properties at the Village, Kerr Mot Hali.
The Court declared that the indigenes are entitled to assemble and gather in order to practise their religion and to manifest such practise in the village, Kerr Mot Hali. The Court restrained the Respondents and granted the perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents from preventing the indigenes from practising their religion in the village.
The Court on the final order declared that the indigenes are not to be discriminated by the Respondents on account of their religion, culture and tradition and particularly in the practice of their religion and the manifestation of such practice in the village.
Recently, the police arrested several people asking them to stay away from their holy place of worship. Some of the indigenes of Kerr Mot Hali were even detained for some hours.