By Mustapha Jallow
Tension erupted between residents of Jabang and Sukuta over land that eventually led to a riot between the residents of Sukuta who were escorted by officers of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) and their Jabang counterparts.
People from Jabang and other settlements came out in their numbers to confront PIU officers and residents of Sukuta, who tried to evict them from their compounds.
This conflict apparently began during the course of last week, when some families from Sukuta claim ownership of an area that is already densely settled with solidly erected structures. The Jabang settlers, including a pregnant woman, cried openly to this reporter, after being dragged out of their compound with their belongings and forcefully locking it.
Modou Colley, the son of Alkalo of Jabang, indicated that some people from Sukuta who were escorted by PIU officers, claim ownership of land already occupied in Jabang; that the said men were going house to house under the escort of the PIU asking settlers to remove their belongings and leave their dwelling places.
‘‘When I saw this I communicated to the people and eventually some young people together with some village elders, showed up and the confrontation began which turned to a riot between residents of Jabang and the people from Sukuta and their escorts, with the PIU throwing tear gas at us,’’ he said.
According to Colley the men targeted compounds on the main roads and were able to lock most of them with the full escort of an armed PIU officers, leaving their owners outside.
‘‘No written documents was given to us. Most of us spent nearly 52 years in this settlement and anyone who has settled here, bought his or her land. So they cannot come from anywhere, asking us to leave our solidly erected compounds to go where, I don’t know,’’ he stressed. He continued: ‘‘Unless the land issue in Jabang is addressed by the authorities, there will be war here because we are also ready to die for our children’s future. They will kill us all than drag us out of our homes. Are we not citizens of this country? Why are they treating us like animals? We are prepared to die but we are not budging.’’ He concluded by calling on Government to intervene urgently or there would be bloodshed between the people of Jabang and Sukuta.
A pregnant woman with her family told this reporter that they were dragged out of her compound and that all the doors in the house were broken, only to remove their belongings on the road.
She continued: ‘‘Some armed PIU officers stood at the gate and men in civilian clothes entered and started breaking our doors. In my bed room, my cupboard and other belongings were taken out and scattered. They brought their padlocks and locked the gate of my compound. I cannot do anything but cry because of the mal-treatment these people meted on me and my family. I’ve settled here with my husband for almost 10 years now but I have never seen such a thing. No letter was shown to me. This land was legally bought by my brother. So how could someone claim ownership of our property now?’’ She asked.
This reporter was told by Modou Colley that the PIU officers later left after a big crowd of residents asked them to leave their territory and that those whose homes were vandalized, were able to return to their homes. It is also said that the security forces left after realizing that no written letter or court order was given to the residents for their eviction.
At the time of going to press, this reporter tried in vain to hear from the Police PRO to no avail.