Kebba Ansu Manneh in Rural Gambia
Gambians in the rural part of the country have blamed the government of The Gambia and the Ministry of Transport for prolonging the strike actions of the Gambia Transport Union that have adversely affected commerce and trade in the hinterland.
Residents of Jarra Soma, Brikamaba, Janjanbureh, Laminkoto, and Kaur Garages on Tuesday calls on the government to dialogue with officials of the transport union to end the strike that is causing unquantifiable damage to not only the rural Gambia but the entire country.
The Voice Newspaper reporter visited the rural part of the country gathering news regarding the impact of the sit-down strike by drivers orchestrated by the government’s failure to meet their demands that includes cutting down pump prices, reducing tariffs paid by Gambian truck drivers at the Trans-Gambia Bridge, increasing transport fair and for Police to reduce the frequency of check-point on the roads.
Ansumana Jatta, a native of Bansang lamented the difficult and unbelievable travelling condition the rural Gambians are going through due to strike actions of the Gambia Transport Union.
He noted that the situation has greatly affected patients seeking treatments , parents, and students seeking admission, and businessmen who relied on the weekly market (LUMO) to make sales.
“For me, I am blaming the government for not doing efforts to defuse the tension before it reached this level. If the government had agreed to dialogue with the transport union and with them this strike would have been avoided but the government flatly refused to do this,” he said.
He added: “Government should understand that it cannot achieve anything through the use of force and the only way out of this situation is dialogue.”
He pointed out that “this lack of dialogue between the government and the drivers is making life very difficult for not only us (rural dwellers) but all Gambians and this I believe is only government who can solve this problem.”
Our reporter also spoke with Tida Njie a native of Janjanbureh who disclosed that she has been on the journey back home since Monday but could not reach her final destination, noting that throughout Monday she has struggled to get transportation to Janjanbureh to no avail due to lack of commuter vehicles.
According to her, the strike actions called by the drivers have adversely affected the movement of goods and services in the area, adding that this situation has caused untold suffering to many households who are working to get admission for their kids.
“Yesterday I went to the garage but there was no vehicle, I decided to go to the GTSC Bus station but the situation remains the same and I have no choice but to sleep. Today also as early as 7 am I came to the bus stop and it’s now almost noon there is no bus take us to Janjanbureh,” Tida Njie expressed her frustration regarding the lack of commuter vehicles. “As I am standing here I’m the one cooking at home today but still now there is no vehicle available.
Right now the only means of transportation available is GTSC, there is no commercial vehicle plying our roads,” she added.
Kemo Mballow a commuter from Sarre Jebel, Upper Fulladu West also expressed his frustration regarding the actions of the transport union, adding that a lot of people in the rural Gambia have no access to commercial vehicles except the GTSC bus services that work on schedule.
He called on the government and Ministry of Transport to do everything under their powers to address the situation, observing that a lot of local businessmen and traders including students and patients are finding it difficult to move from one destination or another.
Masillah Jallow, Head of Brikamaba Garage sympathy the difficult experiences passengers are currently encountering, arguing that government should have engaged the union’s executive to resolve the situation.
According to him, drivers have been raising their concerns to the government without any concrete steps taken to address the situation, arguing that the unconstitutional yearly payment of licenses, the high cost of tariff paid by Gambian truck drivers to cross the Trans-Gambia Bridge, unnecessary police checkpoints and high cost of fuel compared to other neighbouring countries remains challenges that government need ro immediately address to go back to normalcy.
The Brikamaba Head of Garage could not tell when the strike will be called off, noting that the heads of rural garages are in close contact with the executives of the Gambia Transport Union and as of now there is no turning back until when government address the situation.
Our reporter who travelled to the rural Gambia through GTSC bus services observed that Jarra Soma, Brikamaba, Janjanbureh, Laminkoto, and Kaur Garages are emptied with no vehicle available to transport commuters to their various destinations.