As calm has returned to The Gambian fishing village of Sanyang after rioters destroyed a police station and a Chinese fish meal factory, Gambia’s Information Minister Ebrima Sillah, has been talking to Freedom Newspaper in the wake of Monday’s incident. The incident was provoked by the alleged murder of one of the locals by a foreign national, a (Senegalese). The alleged Senegalese thief had broken into the home of a European national. Upon realizing the break-in, the Sanyang man Gibril Ceesay and his brother confronted the thief. An altercation later ensued between thief and the two bothers. Ceesay was stabbed to death by the thief. His brother survived and sustained various degrees of injuries as a result of the stab he suffered in the hands of the thief.
“It is quite unfortunate that there was this wanton destruction of properties because when the matter was brought to the attention of the security forces, the alleged culprit was quickly arrested and put into police custody and he is being processed. So, it is quite unfortunate that the properties were destroyed, the police station was burnt down because remember when alleged crimes are committed are committed it is the security forces, particularly the police, who will have to use their infrastructure, get deployed to the scene to deal with the situation and now if people attack the police station burnt them and destroy police property and the possibility of criminals will take to the street and loot is high. We should all educate ourselves about that, that the police are here for everyone, and we should the ones, who protect the way that they do their work,” Information Minister Sillah remarked.
Police fired tear gas on Monday to disperse angry villagers, who were out to protest the killing of a resident of Sanyang village. Sanyang is on the coast about 43 kilometers southwest of the capital Banjul.
According to Mr. Sillah, the alleged thief has been arrested. “The alleged culprit is currently under police custody, and the police will continue with their investigation until they are satisfied with the evidence before them and hopefully, he would be arraigned before the courts,” he said.
Minister Sillah hasn’t disclosed the nationality of the foreign national accused of the Sanyang man, but media reports say the accused person is a Senegalese national.
The incident has led to the destruction of Senegalese fishing canoes and stalls along the coastal village, an eyewitness told the Freedom Newspaper. The police station and the Chinese fish meal were also burnt to the ground. An unspecified amount of foreign cash was also burnt to the ground, another eyewitness intimated.
“The information that I got was that the same young people, who were protesting in the streets of Sanyang actually burnt down the police station, and also, I think the fish meal was also burnt and the police are investigating these things and we will be given the full information hopefully before the end of the day,” Sillah remarked.
Sillah has assured that the public situation is under control. He added that the police have rounded some of rioters.
“I think the police are actually doing their work. I don’t know what will happen next, that will depend on the evidence at hand, but I can tell you that the situation is completely under control now. In addition to the police deployment, council of elders of West Coast Region of the country also there on the scene and then engaged both the local authorities and the young people themselves and that has helped a lot,” he said.
The Chinese fish meal has been accused of environmental pollution and overfishing. But Siallah said the government is serious about protecting the natural resources and would take action if there are issues with the factory.
“Well since is an allegation, I don’t want to comment on those things, but what I can tell you is that the government of The Gambia is very much protective of our natural resources, some of these fish meal factories on our beaches actually we inherited them, we found them here, Gambians are also working there. If there are issues with their operations of course government would take robust actions,” Sillah told me.
Ahmed Manjang, a Gambian environmentalist, describes what he saw in Sanyang.
“I was just like might be ten meters away from the police station. It was still smoldering with smoke, it was burnt down to ashes, the Chinese fish meal factory in Sanyang is also burnt down to ashes, and few stalls along the beach were all completely burnt down to ashes and the kids are on the rampage, anything they feel that it is going to hurt the government, they go after it and burn it,” said Mr. Manjang.
Manjang went further to explain the circumstances that led to the violent rioting. “There was a break-in into a compound, this compound belongs to a European, and the part of Sanyang where this happens is called Bungkiling, so, the next neighbors, who are keeping an eye on this compound, went to find out they discovered that there is somebody in the house. So, when they got into the house, a fight ensued and this criminal or alleged criminal actually stabbed one of the brothers, they are two brothers and unfortunately, he died, and the other brother sustained special serious injuries and he is now recovering in hospital,” he explained.
Manjang has accused the Chinese-owned factory of pollution, a charge the owners have denied. He says tensions in the community have been building before the death.
“Is a buildup of frustration upon frustration. Chinese have a free one that they do whatever they want to do and they are getting away with it and then we have this fishing agreement with Senegalese, where Senegalese can come in any number, any kind of net, fish in our ocean, sell directly to the Chinese, ignoring the locals, directing the Chinese and the Chinese are paying them in CFA Franc, the locals are seeing this, they feel that the country is being taken over by foreign nationals,” he remarked.
Manjang added that foreign nationals have taken over the fishing industry in The Gambia. He said local villagers who used to rely on fishing to feed their families have been denied access to survival because of the high influx of nationals from neighboring Senegal, Guinea, and elsewhere around the continent. He said the Chinese had done more harm to Gambia’s environment and ecosystem.
Police spokesman Superintendent said the accused person is helping the police in their investigations. He also said the people linked to the vandalism have been arrested.
“Very well, certain arrests were made during the operation to quell the protest. We may not be able to tell how many people were arrested because we still collating reports coming from the ground, but certain individuals have been arrested in connection to the vandalism and damage to property and burning of the Sanyang police station, as well as the fish meal factory and also to certain other properties as well,” he said.
When asked to shed light on reports which suggested that monies had been destroyed at the fish meal during riot, Njie remarked: “Well probably, this will all be clear when we get the actual investigation report. So far what we ascertain for now, a certain number of vehicles have been damaged, also, certain number of vessels, that is boat or canoes that have been used to do fishing and their machines are also confirmed to been damaged during the course of this riot.”
Further quizzed that there was this report circulating on social media, suggesting that cocaine was found in that fish meal, Njie in response had to this to say : “ Very well, like I said, all those are details that may come in case they are really existing or in case they are part of the investigation, they will show up, and if they are not, as far as the police knowledge is concerned, we will be able to tell the public. But like I said, the detail reports are not out yet, but we are getting reports that coming from the ground and those are the issues that we can confirm for now.”
Njie said the affected Chinese nationals, whose assets have been damaged, are also helping the police in their investigations. He said there are no casualties.
“So far they are all helping the police in their investigations. We have not receive no report of casualty for now within the Chinese, even the rioters themselves. The situation is getting back to normalcy. We have also deployed officers there to ensure that they patrol the area through the night in order to be able restore calm and normalcy,” he said.
Njie has called on the community to be calmed and respect the rule of law. He has warned against any form of attack against any foreign national.
The post BREAKING NEWS: SANYANG RIOTS: “IT IS QUITE UNFORTUNATE THAT THERE WAS THIS WANTON DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTIES, BECAUSE WHEN THE MATTER WAS BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF THE SECURITY FORCES, THE ALLEGED CULPRIT WAS QUICKLY ARRESTED AND PUT INTO POLICE CUSTODY AND HE IS BEING PROCESSED,” INFORMATION MINISTER SILLAH DECLARES appeared first on Freedom Newspaper.