By Louise Jobe
Kanifing Municipal Council on Saturday 10th February 2018, around 16.00hrs, demolished stalls and shops within Westfield junction and environs, and the owners and victims of this demolition, could not hide their bitterness and frustration.
Many of the demolished items and materials were loaded in a truck and carried away by the Council staff carrying out the operation, towards the KMC complex. KMC staff members on the demolition exercise were escorted by officers of the Gambia Police Force. This reporter witnessed the presence of the police who destroyed the shops and stalls.
Isatou Conteh, a victim who spoke on behalf of her colleague sellers, said the action came as a surprise to most of them. She explained that she sells food items at the junction, adding that the people embarking on the operation took all her food items outside and destroyed her stall, carried away her tables and other belongings to the KMC. Madam Conteh asserted that they are doing business to support their families at home, because they have no one to assist them. Muhammed Camara, a resident of Latri Kunda German and victim of the demolition exercise, said they spent lots of money to build their stalls; that they were served with a letter from the KMC on Wednesday 8thFebruary 2018, which gave them a three-day notice to vacate from the Westfield junction; that the notice was short for them to look for another place within three days. Mr Camara condemned the excise and said the Authorities should discuss the issue with them before taking such action.
Fatoumatta Sillah the PRO of KMC when contacted, said the demolition is geared towards cleaning and clearing the Council environ and highways for the forthcoming independence celebration.
PRO Sillah said the demolition exercise is an instruction from the Planning and development directorate of the Municipality and a copy was given to all stall and shop owners to vacate the area along the highway; that the exercise is only canteens and stalls along the highway and Westfield. ‘‘We want to make sure the municipality is clean and clear along the high ways from Westfield junction to Denton bridge and this is geared for the forthcoming independence celebration,’’ she said.
She further said that the initiative will be maintained and continued from time to time.
Mr. Ousman Sillah, National Assembly member for Banjul North who was stopped on his way from Banjul, was shown licenses and the notice sent to shop and stall owners, and said the three day notice given to the vendors was short for the stall and shop owners to make the necessary preparation to relocate; adding that “we are in a country where poverty is on the increase and the cost of living is getting higher; that people are trying in most circumstances to make ends meet and these efforts should not be frustrated”.
Mr. Sillah promised to meet the KMC authorities and discuss with them on the way forward for the shop and stall owners whose items have been destroyed, as a result of the demolition exercise.