By Yankuba Jallow
The people of Kerr Mot Hali village who have been seeking justice from Government for some time now, continue to suffer from intimidation at the hands of the Police.
On Tuesday June 25th 2019, seven people were said to have been arrested in a space of two weeks by personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU).
During the recent incident, three people including a 50-year-old man, were arrested and forced to run a distance of three kilometres from Kerr Mot Hali village to Njaw Police Station. Their arrest came in the wake of their presence in the bush close to the village, offering prayers at a holy place considered as shrine for the community. The Police are now said to be stationed at this spot and according to the villagers, it is creating fear among them.
Most of the people of the village are currently seeking refuge in Senegal following their encounter with members of the Gambia Police Force in 2009. They fled to a neighboring village in Senegal when they were confronted by security forces including the Police, who arrested and jailed some of them. Since then, they have sought refuge in this neighboring Senegalese village. The villagers brought their plight before Justice Aminata Ceesay-Saho of the Banjul High Court after suing the Inspector General of Police, the Attorney General and two others in relation to the incident. The villagers sought declaration that they are citizens of the Gambia who have rights over their properties and a right to return to their country, after being deprived of right over their properties in their village by the security forces.
The whole issue came about when the villagers of Kerr Mot Hali wanted to renovate the village mosque after the death of their religious leader; this was when the ‘indigenes’ of the village clashed with the family members of the religious leader who came from Senegal and with the intervention of some security forces and the Police, they fled for fear of arrest.
The Court held that the applicants as it can be gleaned from their affidavits, are all citizens of the Gambia and property owners at Kerr Mot Hali village in the Upper Saloum District of the Central River Region, a village they said was founded in the year 1777 by a marabout called Mot Hali.
The Court declared that the plaintiffs are Gambians and have a right to return to their country and village; that they are the rightful owners of their properties and are entitled to the possession of their properties at Kerr Mot Hali; that it is their right to take back possession of their properties at the village which were taken from them forcefully.
In addition, the Court issued an injunction restraining the respondents, whether by themselves, their servants or agents or whosoever, from dealing with, entering or remaining, or alienating or otherwise interfering with the appellants properties, situated at Kerr Mot Hali.
The Court granted a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from preventing the appellants from taking possession and occupying their respective properties in Kerr Mot Hali village.
The Court declared that the appellants are entitled to assemble and gather in order to practise their religion and to manifest such practice in the village of Kerr Mot Hali. The Court restrained the respondents and granted perpetual injunction restraining them from preventing the appellants from practicing their religion in the village.
The Court on a final order declared that the appellants are not to be discriminated by the respondents on account of their religion, culture and tradition and particularly in the practice of their religion and the manifestation of such practice in the village of Kerr Mot Hali.
Ousman Kah told Foroyaa that he was arrested along with Musa Nget, a 50-year-old man and Abdoulie Nget. Ousman Kah 39 year old told Foroyaa that the PIU officers forced them to run from Kerr Mot Hali to Njau Police Station, a distance of three kilometres.
“We were not arrested at our holy place of worship. Instead the Police arrested us while we were on our way home. They told us that a ban has been imposed on us from performing prayers at our holy shrine. This according to them is an order from the top command of the Police force,” Kah explained; that after this, the Police officers harassed them using verbal foul language labeling them as criminals. He said the officers were armed; that the Police detained them for a night at the Njau Police Station and released them on bail the following Wednesday 26th June 2019.
“The Police at Njau Station told us that no one is allowed to go to the holy shrine. This, we feel, is against our fundamental Constitutional right to exercise our faith,” Kah said.
Those arrested the previous week before Tuesday 25th, were Salieu Wilaan, Sering Modou Secka, Binta Secka and Amie Secka.
According to sources, these people were arrested and warned by the police not to go to their place of worship.