By: Kebba AF Touray
Members of Wuli East Animal Protection Association (WEAPA) have filed a petition against three police stations for allegedly failing to take appropriate actions and/or measures against suspected cattle rustlers.
The members petitioned three police stations namely, Macca Masireh Police Station, Sareh Ngai Police Station and Basse Police Station all in the Upper River Region (URR).
According to them, the issue has become chaotic and worrying in their area because cattle owners live in fear of losing their animals to alleged cattle rustlers.
The members strongly advised the authorities to take swift actions with a view to addressing the practice, stating that failing to address the problem could lead to serious conflict in the area- particularly between the animal owners and the culprits.
The members filed their petition to the National Assembly through the newly established legislative committee on Public Petitions, who invited the association’s members to appear before them and give their version of the matter.
Mr. Saiba Nasso, Adviser of the Association, told the committee that the practice has been happening in the area for the past 10 years and they have been making efforts to address it, but their efforts are yet to bear fruits.
“The reason for bringing the petition to the National Assembly is that the issue has reached a breaking point and we as farmers felt that the last resort is the National Assembly. We are farmers and whatever we have including our farm produce, is spent on these animals, so that we can use them especially in emergency situations, to take care of pressing issues,” he explained.
“We reached out to the Police with the belief that they are in better position to help address our problems, but each time we reach out to them, the outcomes are always disappointing and sorrowful.”
Nasso accused one person (name withheld) as the principal suspect, allegedly responsible for the frequent stealing of their animals. He said they have reported cases to the police but the police have never taken any action regarding the matter.
“Many times the people of Wuli East, would capture these suspects, and take them to the police. To our disappointment, the police would release the suspects and detain the victim. This sometimes agitates the people of Wuli East and they would sometimes attempt to set the police station ablaze. But when we receive information about these issues, we would always advise them to be law abiding and desist from mob justice. And thankfully, the people have always heeded to our advice,” he said.
Musa (Balla) Danso, the secretary of the association, tasked the authorities to urgently take appropriate actions, with a view to curbing the menace. He said that if the authorities fail to do that, the issue may deteriorate and lead to a national problem.
“When we capture the ‘accused person’ for the police to come to the scene is a major problem. When we capture these ‘accused persons’ the punishment that should be meted out to them (suspects) is normally meted out to the victim. The fact that these accused persons are entering the Gambia through Senegal shows the weakness on the side of the security in the execution of their work,” he said.
Tunko Singhateh, chairperson of the association, said the practice has reached at a level whereby the natives of Wuli East have tasked themselves to make efforts to eradicate the practice in the area.
Singhateh said the reason for taking the petition before the committee, was triggered by the difficulties and nightmare they are facing in relation to cattle rustling in their area.
“There should be trust and communication between us and the police so that when we see something that is not clear to us, we report it to the police for them to take necessary actions, so that the practice would be addressed,” he said.
“If the police complete their investigations, the matter should be taken to court. But we have seen that the Police are lacking in that aspect and that is not helping to address the problems. If you capture someone in the act and take him to the police, they would say that the right of the accused person is violated, leading to the detention of both the accused and the victim,” he said.
Adama Bah, from the National Livestock Owners’ Association, said actions ought to be taken to curb the practice. He said if actions are not taken, it could cause a civil war, saying it is painful for someone to struggle to earn money and buy animals for family use only for it to be snatched from him by people involved in stealing.
Mr. Saikou Fatty, the Associations’ Lawyer, reiterated that the role of the Police is to enforce the law, protect lives and properties, adding that Wuli East also rely on the Police for such protection. He said the Police are working, but they need to more to serve the people.
Fatty said the suspected cattle rustler has slaughtered a lot of cattle and the association has lodged complaints against him at the Police (in Basse, Macca Masireh and Sareh Ngai Stations) and GLMA, requesting for his license to be revoked.
He said after the revocation of his license, the Police should work towards ensuring that the GLMA Act is obeyed by the citizenry.
The petition committee hailed the association members for their appearance before them to voice out their concerns with the aim of seeking solution to the matter. The committee assured the members that they would do their work as expected of them without fear or favor.