By Nelson Manneh
Sonikara-Gambi Association has on Friday 28th August 2020 called on the government of the Gambia to intervene and solve the ongoing conflicts among the people of different social classes in the Upper River Region.
Caste system among the Soninkes has caused a lot of conflicts within communities in URR leading to the loss of lives and properties.
Almamie Jabbi the advisor of the Sonikara-Gambi Association told journalists on Friday that the unabated conflicts among the different caste in the Sarahuleh communities in the Gambia, needs to be addressed by the government. He said they have several dialogues among themselves, but they cannot still resolve their differences.
“Sarahulehs were known for helping each other and our great grandparents were living together without any problem, but there has been a negative dramatic turn in the past few years and that is not good for us,” he said.
Mr. Jabbi alleged that the government is aware of the conflicts that are taking place in the Sarahule communities in Upper River Region, but the authorities are doing little or making any effort to put an end to it.
“We the Sonikara-Gambi Association want peace and that is why we are calling on the government to intervene before it is too late,” he said.
Sonikara-Gambi Association advisor said all the Sarahullehs communities in The Gambia know that slavery does not exists and they want peace to prevail in the whole country.
“The National Human Rights Commission has visited us in Basse and brought all of us together to discuss and put an end to the matter, but we could not come to any mutual understanding,” he said.
Muhammed Gamaneh the Secretary-General of the Association said the caste system conflict has been going on in their communities for more than eight years, but the government has not shown any concern on how to put an end to it.
“Sonikara-Gambi has lost more than three lives due to this cast system. We want it to come to an end. If the government continues to be silent about it, we will take measures to put an end to it,” he said.
Sonikara-Gambi Association SG alleged that they have tried their best to engage the Gambana Association, but to no avail.
“The government is, in fact, supporting the Gambana people and they don’t want to be fair between us,’ he said.
He continued; “We used to pray in the same mosque during feast in the past years, but this year the Gambana people refused to pray with us in the same mosque. They decided to pray on their own which is not good.”
Alpha Marikong, the National President of the Gambana Association said the National Human Rights Commission did not meet any member of their executive (Gambana Association executive) when they went to their communities in Basses.
“What we want from the Sonikara-Gambi Association is for them to know that we are all equal with them in our communities and we want them to treat us equally,” he said.
Mr. Marikong said slavery does not ‘exist’ anymore and they should not be seen as slaves. He said they have never sat with the Sonikara-Gambi people to discuss their problems since the conflict started in their respective communities.
“I cannot say we don’t want to sit with them and discuss the matter because dialogue is what will bring an end to this whole caste system existing between the Sarahulehs,” he said.
He said they have put all their demands in place and they will be willing to have a dialogue with the Sonikara-Gambi Association.
Readers could recall that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says it is extremely concerned over the alleged fine, and banishment imposed on one Musa Trawally by the Alkalo of Garawol Village in the Upper River Region (URR) for leading a congregational prayer on Tobaski Day, as reported on the Foroyaa Newspaper of 11 August 2020 with the caption ‘Man Ordered to Vacate Garawol After Leading Supposed Slave Class in Prayers’.
The rights commission said: “Equally disconcerting and disturbing have been allegations of assault and discriminatory practices against this same group of people within the Sarahuleh communities in the Region.”
Discriminatory practices and incidences within identified communities in URR have come to the attention of the Commission which it finds abhorrent to the dignity and person of the affected people, who are commonly referred to by the derogatory term “slaves” mostly by those who regard themselves as ‘nobles’. The Commission, set up to protect the rights of all people in The Gambia condemns in the strongest terms of all acts of human rights violations and discrimination against the people affected. Discrimination of any type or nature, including one based on caste, has no place in a civilized society and certainly not in The Gambia where the 1997 Constitution accords every citizen and resident equal rights and protection and free and dignified life, the Commission said.