The Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Emmanuel Daniel Joof, has expressed in a Media Release, the Commission’s extreme concern about the alleged fine and in lieu banishment imposed on one Musa Trawally by the Alkalo of Garawol village in the Upper River Region (URR), for leading a congregational prayers on Tobaski Day, as reported on the Foroyaa Newspaper of 11th August 2020 with the caption: ‘Man Ordered to Vacate Garawol After Leading Supposed Slave Class in Prayers’; That equally disconcerting and disturbing, are allegations of assault and discriminatory practices against this same group of people within the Sarahuleh communities in the Region.
According to the Press Release, these discriminatory practices and incidences within identified communities in URR, have come to the attention of the Commission who find it 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 Release said the Commission is set up to protect the rights of all people in the Gambia and that it condemns in the strongest terms, all acts of human rights violations and discrimination against the people affected. The Release further said that discrimination of any type or nature, including the 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 a free and dignified life.
That since October 2019 to date, the NHRC has conducted two fact-finding missions to the communities of Diabugu, Koina and Garawol which revealed the existence of the caste system in these communities and that of a long-standing traditional practice that subjects ‘slaves’ to tedious and sometimes degrading jobs, for their ‘masters’ or ‘nobles’. The Release said in extreme cases, the affected group has reported physical attacks on some of their members. That following the 2019 fact-finding mission, the NHRC reported its findings through its annual report and made recommendations to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights on medium and long-term solutions to end the issue.
The Release said the NHRC requests that the Government urgently set up a task force comprising relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Ministry of Interior, representatives of the Supreme Islamic Council, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights and the NHRC, to look into the current troubles in the area and to also examine and implement the recommendations proposed by the NHRC, to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights.
Concluding, the NHRC Press Release reiterates that discrimination and discriminatory practices based on tribe, religion, language or other statuses are illegal and unacceptable, and urges people to treat each other in a dignified and respectable manner which also recognizes the humanity of all; that the NHRC equally urges the Government and relevant authorities to take swift and permanent actions to eradicate the caste system and other discriminatory practices which dehumanize people in the Gambia.
The NHRC in their Press Release said they remain committed to the protection of human rights and to a safe and dignified life for all in the Gambia.