By Abdoulie Fatty and Mustapha Jallow
Officials of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and senior Police heads on Tuesday headed a peace mediation team in Manduar, after the people from Manduar Mandinka-Kunda and Manduar Touba (Wollof)-Kunda, clashed over alkaloship and attestation for voters’ registration.
Manduar Mandinka-Kunda and Manduar Touba (Wollof)-Kunda, who shared the same community- a few kilometres away from Brikama town, have a history of conflicts over land, ethnolinguistic issues and Alkaloship.
This long history of conflicts over land alkaloship cooked the tension, whereby the people of Mandinka-Manduar claimed that Manduar is one village with one Alkalo and that everyone should register at the village’s registration centre.
But the people of Wolof Touba-Manduar dismissed that argument, saying they have their own territorial village with an Alkalo and they should only be in charge of their own voter registration.
This resulted in a confrontation, where the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) intervened and started firing tear gas to the rioters. The IEC also evacuated immediately.
But peace was immediately restored after the deployment of the paramilitary, who at the time effected some arrests.
The arrested persons were taken to Brikama Police station, where rioters attempted to launch a counter attack on the Police for detaining their colleagues. The attackers did not succeed following the reinforcement of paramilitary.
The reporters observed that the rioters briefly threw stones at the officers inside the station. According to a senior officer, who was commanding the reinforcement, an officer was injured at the spot and was immediately rushed to Brikama Health Centre.
A young man was also seen being picked up and beaten by a paramilitary officer, who escorted him to the said police station where he was detained.
At 1pm, the IEC officials and Police heads held talks with both Alkalolu and villagers. The first one was held in Manduar – Mandinka, while the second one was in Manduar Wolof-Kunda.
Anthony Robert Secka, IEC Commissioner and peace mediator at Manduar said, the two groups have a long-term problem about alkaloship.
“Now, according to the Mandinka side, they said they have only one Alkalo. Now what we have been made to understand from the governor’s office is that there is an Alkalo in Touba Manduar, which the Mankinka side is not accepting. They said as far as they are concerned, there is only one Alkalo and there will be only one stamp for this station,” he said.
“This is why there is a violence this morning because they said they will not allow the other Alkalo (Wolof-Kunda) to attest to his own people. The issue is a problem of Alkaloship. We are not local government authorities and therefore that is for the local authorities to take care of it.”
The IEC Commissioner Secka added: “We are only concerned about electoral matters and as far as we are concerned, we are dealing with what we are being informed by the governor; that there is an Alkalo in Touba-Manduar and the Mandinka side are saying there is no other Alkalo.”
Secka further said during the incident, he had to withdraw his team in the morning when there was a clash. But unfortunately, he said the issue was stabilized, saying this led the Touba Manduar people to return to their home village.
“We decided to bring the team (IEC staff) back again. As you can see, work is in process. We cannot stop because we have only a few more days left. So, it’s their right to vote, it’s their right to register and it’s free,” he said.
Commissioner Secka said they are going to report back to their office in order to strategize and see what to do and ensure the people of Touba Manduar are registered too. He said they are an institution that deals with law and all their actions are guarded by law.
“We will seek legal advice, then we will take appropriate measures. As far as we are concerned, we have only one polling station in Manduar, which is shared by both the Mankinkas and the Wolofs and that pool is the school. Where registration is done, it is important that it is also done within the village,” he explained.
According to Commissioner Seacka, they have not agreed on anything yet, saying they will go and sit as a commission and see where they can find a peaceful solution to it. He said the registration is still going on and assured that people will continue to be registered.
Jerreh Bojang, the Alkalo of Manduar Mankinka-Kunda, said they do not acknowledge nor have information that Wollof-Kunda have their own Alkalo.
He said he knew this during the registration process. He said Manduar Wollof-Kunda should have sent a delegation with kola nuts and a written letter, stating an Alkalo has been appointed in Wolof-Kunda.
According to Bojang, what happened was due to a lack of communication and dialogue. He nonetheless advised his villagers to respect the registration process, including the staff of IEC
During the second discussion with the Wolof-Kunda side, villagers said since they have their own Alkalo, it is fair for them to use their own stamp to issue attestation.
An old man stood up and recalled that years back, he told the officials that during registrations, their ID cards, passports and birth certificates were seized by people of Manduar Mandinka, who will not only stop at that, but also describe them as strangers; when Police Commissioner for West Coast Region, Commissioner Pateh Bah, asked the old man whether the seizure of their documents was an issue that happened this year.
The Commissioner made it clearer to them that even him, as a Police commissioner, has no right to seize anyone’s documents, noting that no other person has the right to seize their documents.
The Commissioner immediately stood up with a scroll face and left the mediation ground.
The mediation team tried to convince people of Manduar Wolof Kunda to go to the registration center, which is at Manduar Mandinka Kunda, but they refused, saying they were mercilessly attacked and beaten until some of their colleagues were seriously wounded. They instead claimed for a new registration center to be stationed at their area or elsewhere or even at the IEC building.
Alhagie Babucarr Secka, the Alkalo of Manduar Wolof Kunda, said he was appointed as Alkalo in 2012.
He said they went to the village Bantaba where the voter registration was taking place, they placed their table so that the people from Wolof Kunda could do their registration.
He said the youth from Manduar Mandinka Kunda said that would not happen because they have only one Alkalo who hails from their end. Alkalo Secka said the youth told him that he has to identify someone from Wolof Kunda to come and sit next to the Mandinka Kunda Alkalo, Jerreh Bojang. It was at this juncture, tension broke out.
Secka said they would not go back to the village Bantaba to get registered.
According to him, they wrote to the IEC on 14 January 2021 for them to have their own registration center, but they did not receive any reply from IEC. He said they later understand that the person who delivered the letter did not take it to the right place.
IEC Official, Sambujang Njie, said after listening from the two camps, they cannot take any decision at the moment. He said they would go back and deliberate on the matter with his boss and report back to the village before Thursday on the decision made about their situation.
Mama Kaddy Manneh, resident of Manduar village, said he went for registration and learned about the incident. She said she understood that people from Manduar Suwura Kunda came with their Alkalo to be registered.
“I was there and people from Manduar Mandinka Kunda said they would not accept that because they only have one Alkalo in the village,” she said.
She said even her brother’s wife is in hospital because of the tear gas she inhaled which the police threw to disperse the people.
Jabbu Jeng, Amadou Tijan Jallow, and Kiaraba Jabbi, all business individuals around the Brikama Police Station, were affected by the incident. They complained that they could not sell because people from Manduar village trooped to the police station and the police threw tear gas to disperse them.