Journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh has recounted harrowing story of how she lost consciousness this week in the recent Sukuta Salaji demolition.
Below is the full text.
“Yes. I was arrested. 16 of us. Bail is extended until Tuesday morning 10 am, the 26th, when we are to report back to the Burusubi police station in Sukuta. The community alerted me Tuesday afternoon, the 19th, that their houses, fences are demolished by security forces and I need to come see. I arrived at Salaji to a stand off between Sukuta community and the Para military police with physical planning and ministry of land personnel with a demolition squad.
They insisted they will demolish the last fence standing on their list but the youths disagreed. Unbeknowing to the community they started demolishing pockets of houses and fences in the interior before the community is aware. By the time they get the news the squad have already destroyed many homes. They trapped us and firebombed/ sent tear gas on us. I collapsed. The security forces panicked and came picked me up/dragged to a safe place only for another trouper to come grab me by the shoulder put me under arrest and sent to the police vehicle on standby. 16 of us were arrested sent to the Burusubi Police Station and got locked up until some town elders came bail us out at around 8pm from charges of obstruction. For the past 30 years Sukuta and Kombo has been target for corrupt government officers, scrupulous land dealers, greedy estate owners with some local criminals selling off any parch of land they can defraud. Ministry of lands will bring a fake masterplan / sketch to the community promising them hospitals, markets and schools.
They will use that ploy to rip off the community off their lands, then turn around and sell it to individual land dealers or distribute it amongst family and friends. This is unfair! Sukuta has no farmland left. The area used to have 3 major peanut selling points, peanut trading facilities in the 80s. It brought in food security and employment for the community. Now our men and youths don’t have anywhere and nothing to do. Unemployment that brought some serious catastrophic economic and negative consequences in the community. Major hotel lands were plucked from Sukuta. Sukuta alone has 5 estate housing with no compensation or regard to the community. These criminal eagles have also set their eyes on the only community forest left. Hell bent on destroying the environment. The little portion or piece of land left are now target of government land traders. Aggressive and brutal. They use Para troupers to scare the locals off their homes, demolish and sell. It’s tight now as they are running out of ” government reserved lands” to sell so they are squeezing the people as much as they can. Some locals sleep at their backyards with sticks and machetes as land dealers hover and sniff the whole area. Government has to properly reserve the land they need from the community. Not confiscate as predators without compensation. This is bringing endless chaos, and distress to an already battered people. The Ministry of lands should employ due diligence according to the law. They have destroyed Kombo communities they are meant to protect and encourage harmonious living irrespective of where one hails from. Sukuta with a population of over 50 thousand is supported by a small clinic. Built by the community. Apart from paracetamol you don’t expect much. This is gross negligence. Will continue to update on the matter.
Thanks for your concerns. I was overwhelmed with community meetings and engagements and could not properly update my friends on the situation. But this is just the summary of events happening in my community right now. Sukuta. “