Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Gunjur-Berending Land Crisis Continues Barely Four Years after Court of Appeal Judgment

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The land dispute between the residents of Berending and the people of Gunjur is yet to be settled barely four years after the Gambia Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the High Court which dismissed a suit filed by the Darboe Kunda family of Gunjur against the Sanyang Kunda family of Berending.

Justice Awa Bah ruled: “The lack of a ground of appeal against the said finding of fact by the learned trial judge has robbed this court of the opportunity to look at the evidence that was before the lower court in order to determine that court properly evaluated the evidence led on the identity of the suit land. The only findings that could be a subject of scrutiny by this court is the learned trial judge’s finding that Berending Village is founded on the land that originally belonged to Kartong. However, a determination on that issue cannot help the case of the appellant as the suitland is pleaded to be land between Berending and Gunjur and the identity of which the appellant is held to have failed to prove. It would therefore be a mere academic exercise which this court does not engage in.”

“It is therefore apparent flowing from the above reasoning that this appeal cannot succeed under the circumstances of this case. It lacks merit and is hereby accordingly dismissed. I award cost of D50, 000.00 in favour of the respondent.”

This case was appealed by one Lamin Darboe representing himself and the Darboe family in Gunjur against one Arfang Sanyang representing himself and the estate of Aba Sanyang.

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The current tension is reignited by plans by the authorities to demarcate the border separating the two settlements.

The people of Berending have raised concern over the planned demarcation of their border with Gunjur. The two communities are in Kombo South District and have controversies over land issues and Government has indicated that it is going to demarcate the border between the two communities.

The people of Berending however questioned the independence of the Land Committee set up to do demarcate the border because the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, comes from Gunjur.

The Chief of Kombo South District communicated this information to the people of the District on the 22nd of June 2020 and on the 1st of July 2020, the Department of Lands and Surveys wrote to the Alkalos of both villages on the issue.

Arfang Sanyang, the retired Alkalo of Berending said they are concerned about whether Government will demarcate the border based on the recommendations of the said committee.

“Berending has an old natural border which is known to both communities,” the ex-Alkalo said; adding they will not accept any decision made by another body different from the one made by the Gambia Court of Appeal on their case.

“The Gambia Court of Appeal judgement is the original one. We will not accept any other recommendation,” he said.

Ousman Jammeh, the Public Relations Officer of the Berending Village Development Committee (VDC) said the meeting at the Department of Lands and Surveys could not hold because the Alkalo of Gunjur was absent.

“It was a surprise to me because the Chief who also lives in Gunjur, received his letter and was in attendance,” Jammeh said; that speaking on behalf of the (VDC), the Chief of Kombo South Lamin Darboe verbally told the Alkalo of Berending during the meeting that the Commission was ready with their recommendation and Government will demarcate the border; that a few days later, the Department of Lands and Survey wrote back to inform them about another meeting on the same border demarcation issue.

“We are concerned because Government did not formally inform us about the existence of the Commission and the Commission did not also come to our community to hear our side of the story or gather the facts regarding the land in question,” the PRO said; that the people of Berending do not have trust in the Commission because they believe the people of Gunjur could influence it.

“Their recommendation should not and cannot be at variance with the judgement of the Gambia Court of Appeal,” he said; that the judgment was served to the Governor’s Officer, the Police Headquarters and the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, amongst others.

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