By Yankuba Jallow
Residents of Kerr Mot Hali still continue to seek justice from the Government of The Gambia.
The residents of this community are currently in refuge in Senegal. They were forced to flee from their village in 2009 and have been making efforts to return but were told by the police not to do so. The community is situated in Upper Saloum District, Central River Region. It has been 2 years since the High Court delivered a judgment in their favour.
The residents are desperate in coming back to their home country, The Gambia. The law of The Gambia is such that every person has the right to return to the country. They have a court declaration that they are Gambians and have title over their land although the Ministry of Justice has obstructed the execution of the judgment.
In the year 2009, during the reign of ex-President Yahya Jammeh, these people were chased to Senegal by the GPF. This was because they practise another type of Islam that the former President did not recognize. They have been in neighbouring Senegal since 2009.
According to court records, these people absconded to a neighbouring village in Senegal when they were confronted by policemen who arrested and jailed many of them as well. This issue came about because of the renovation of a mosque after the death of the village religious leader – Sering Ndigal, when the indigenes clashed with his family members from Senegal. After the clash, the police joined in, causing them to flee because of fear of arrest whereas some were arrested and detained. The People of Kerr Mot Hali of Central River Region sued the Inspector General, Attorney General and two others in relation to the matter.
These people brought an 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 of their right over their properties in the village.
The High Court made a declaration that they are Gambians and have a right to return to the Gambia. Also, the court held that they have a right to manifest their religion and have right over their land and properties. The residents have been following the Sherriff’s Division of the High Court to enforce the court judgment so that they can come back to The Gambia but they say the Minister of Justice is an obstacle to this.
Tambadou in a press conference said: “What the Ministry sought to do was to convey our intention to apply for a stay of execution of that judgment, pending an appeal or reference to the Supreme Court, because there are very fundamental issues surrounding that incident. It is a typical Constitutional Law case, where we have one group of people, requesting for the exercise of their fundamental rights to live and practice their religion, and we are for the public interest and morality, Government has to strike this balance in terms of addressing or facilitating the exercise of the right of one, and also maintaining public morality. It is a very serious issue that we are considering and we still consider our options in terms of moving forward. We did not seek for a stay of execution but rather, communicated our intention. I have to say this. Even when the judgment was rendered, the Sheriff’s division conveyed their worry in terms of executing the judgment, because it is a very burning issue in that community and we wouldn’t want to encourage or be the cause of violence. I know the courts orders need to be enforced and needs to be enforced strictly. But on the other hand, it is in the interest of the public that we feel such order should be relief and another court should look into the facts and perhaps address it more appropriately, in the way that we feel as Government should be, and we have every right to seek for a stay of execution.”
Since then, they have held several meetings at the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the President where some permanent secretaries attended but yet the judgment is not enforced.
Speaking to the residents, they told Foroyaa that they are perturbed because they can’t understand why the Attorney General stamps his feet on the judgment.
“We suffered in the hands of the former Government. We endured being in another country from 2009 to date. We followed the due process of the law and the court made its judgment. Does the Attorney General have the power to stop a court judgment?” one of them told Foroyaa.