Kerewan Youths Vandalise Rice Fields
Friday, August 17, 2012
A group of young men from the provincial village of Kerewan in the Wuli West district Thursday August 9, vandalised a 7-hectare rice field owned by the people of neighbouring Taibatou village.
An eyewitness to the incident told The Daily News that the youths who were led by a Ba-Kebba Jawneh were armed with hoes and cutlasses, and used a tractor to destroy the rice crops.
“They came in large numbers,” said Fantanding Kijera, a woman rice grower, whose field is situated next to the destroyed ones. “I alone could not control them. I went home and left them there.”
An 11-year-old boy from Taibatou said he was found guarding the rice fields from animals when the Kerewan villagers threatened him to leave.
“We destroyed the crops because that land does not belong to them. It is ours,” Bakebba Jawneh of Kerewan, said, admitting that they vandalised the farmlands.
For the past several years, the two neighbouring villages of Kerewan and Taibatou have both been claiming ownership of a stretch of land known as Balingbato, this paper has confirmed from several village sources.
In May this year, ahead of the start of the cropping season, a tribunal of seven district chiefs entered a judgement in favour of Kerewan, following a fight that broke out between the two farming communities over the said farmlands.
“We had informed the people of Taibatou to abandon the disputed land,” the chief of Wuli West district, Kemo Jatta, said. He admitted that at the time, Taibatou had begun farming activities on the farmlands.
Chief Jatta’s claim was confirmed by June Bah, the chief of Sandu district. “That particular portion of the land where the fight happened belongs to Kerewan and people of Taibatou were asked to abandon the place. That if they need to cultivate the land, they should take permission from Kerewan,” he added.
However, the alkali of Taibatou, Yusupha Jabbi, said his village was not satisfied with the way the district chiefs handled the dispute.
“The chiefs came and told us that the land belongs to Kerewan. They did not allow me to speak during the court. And I told them that I would not accept their ruling,” Alkali Jabbi told The Daily News.
He added: “Had we responded irresponsibly as Kerewan, there would have been catastrophe. You know our youths mobilised themselves, wanting to attack Kerewan youths, but village elders were able to control them.”
Also speaking with this paper, the Governor of URR, Omar Khan, said they visited the farmland with both the elders of the two villages.
“We told the people of Taibatou that if they were not satisfied with the decision taken by the chiefs, they should appeal at the higher courts,” Omar Khan said.
Meanwhile, Mahamadudinding Jawneh was among the victims of the destruction. The 47-year-old said he had cultivated one hectare of rice field, on which he so far spent over D900.
“I have been farming here since I was young. All of a sudden, Kerewan claimed the land to be theirs. My farming this year is now zero. This is the only hope for me, as my entirely life depends on farming. I have school-going children whose school fees are from farming. Last year’s season was poor, but I am hoping to harvest 35 bags of rice this year.”
Also Ba-Hamadi Suwareh, a 56-year-old man, said he had cultivated almost 5 hectares of rice. “I was expecting a bumper harvest this year. Kerewan wanted to expose us to hunger and starvation.”
Author: Ousman Touray, correspondent in URR