Manduar Forest Saga: Police Arrest 5 People 

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By Louise Jobe 

The Gambia Police Force has arrested the Chairperson of the Manduar Village Community Development Committee and four others in the ongoing saga regarding allegation of encroachment into their community forest.

The forest is situated between Manduar, Penyem and Bakary Sambuya. The residents of Manduar accused their alkalo of encroaching into their community forest by allocating plots of land to people in the reserved forest area. Other people allegedly involved in the shady transactions were the Alkalo of Marakissa-Fula Kunda and others. The young people of the village have indicated their stance that the forest should not be tampered by any Alkalo or land dealer.

The matter has been before the Kombo Central District Tribunal and also the Brikama Magistrate’s Court. According to the youths of the community, there is an existing injunction against all and sundry to stop activities on the land in dispute.

Protesting youths of Manduar

The villagers accused the Alkalo of Manduar and his close associates of violating the injunction order by continuing with sales and allocation of plots of land in the disputed area.

The forest belongs to the communities of Manduar Village, ⁠Bakary Sambuya, 

Penyem village and Marakissa. The area was assigned as a forest area in 1999, according to documents seen by Foroyaa.

Bubaccar Sowe, the Chairman of Manduar VDC said he and the young people of the community on Saturday, 30th of March 2024 embarked on a patrol in the forest and discovered that some plots of lands that are situated in the forest were already sold and allocated to people. He said they observed that some trees planted by the people of Manduar were cut down.

“The reason for that visit was because we received information from some of the community members, who from time to time visit the community forest, that there is an ongoing construction of new buildings and fences in the area that the Court passed an injunction. On that Saturday, some workers were found on the ground making blocks, digging foundations for the construction of fences and buildings. We also found that some building construction was ongoing,” he said.

He said the labourers were asked to stop and soon after that the matter was reported to the nearest police station in Brikama Madina.

He said after a week, the police did not take action (s) in the matter and it was the reason for calling a press conference. The press and the police were together and there was a site visit to the forest to see what was happening.

Some workers were met on the ground and were invited to Brikama— madina police station to obtain their statements.

Seedy Dem, one of the people accused of encroaching into the forest, said he is the Head of the Marakissa Fula Kunda Community. He said the area the youths are talking about is not part of the forest.

Dem said the land belongs to their community through inheritance and does not form part or the forest. He did not deny the allegation against him that he sold portions of the land. His response was the people of Manduar had sold part of the forest and now want to claim their family lands. The Alkalo of Manduar was unreachable and inaccessible. 

Police Public Relation Officers PRO ASP Modou Musa Sisawo said on 6th of April 2024, Babucarr Sowe, Chairman of the Manduar Village Development Committee, reported the matter to the Madina Police Post that he and some local youths encountered individuals working in the Manduar Community Forest. 

When asked why the VDC Chairman and the other 4 people were arrested, the PRO said they took the law into their own hands. The allegation against the VDC Chairman and others are accused of impersonating the police.