Babylon demolition: one arrested, several homeless

Victim crying over her demolished house in Babylon

By Alhagie F. S. Sora

More than 25 five compounds are reported to have been demolished at Babylon village in the Kombo North district of West Coast Region, November 11, 2003 at around 2.00pm up to 4.00pm by the members Police Intervention Unit (PIU) and some youths in mufti.

This reporter saw the said team of demolishers at the Lamin Market in three vehicles with the registration numbers GPF 4PIU, GG 0941A and a GG 0919A, all pick-ups.
The PIU’s combatant-like preparedness was visible rushing in one of the three vehicles with their riot gears, while the civilian town youths boarded two other vehicles with hammers and pickaxes.

However, Gambia Watchdog reporter also saw the youths distributing money among themselves purported to be the payment for the demolition exercise they have carried out.

Hired civilian demolishers
One of the youths (name withheld) told our reporter, “We were at Babylon to do the demolition.” The young man in mufti who did not disclose who hired them quickly added that even though he had no idea about the said exercise but participated for money.
These young people were sharing their money openly at the Lamin Market where our reporter caught up with them.

Tears of homelessness
During a visit at the scene of the demolition at Babylon by our reporter 20 compounds were confirmed affected by the demolition. At the time of publication, the rest reported five homes were not reach due to the darkness as it was already 8.00 pm in the evening.

The demolition forcibly rendered families homeless. Several affected people were crying for the lost of their residence to the unexplained demolition exercise and without any hope of compensation for their houses and lands.
There were loud cries in the village and the victims could not speak to our reporter because they were in a stressful situation.

Eyewitness accounts of arrest
Eyewitness accounts have it that one Bakary Saidykhan, a resident of Babylon was arrested
“My son was found in his house chatting with his friend and the PIU officers informed him that they were there to demolish his house. When he asked them the reason for demolishing his house officers whisked him away and has not yet been seen,” said Mbamba Sanneh, Bakary’s mother.

The worried mother told Gambia Watchdog that Bakary’s wife had followed the arrestors to Banjulunding Police Station only to be told by the police that his husband was sick and was on the verge of collapsing that was why they took him away.
Bakary’s wife was then told by the police to go home that his husband will spend the night at the police station, Mbamba explained.

She further stated that his son’s house was demolished and he was arrested without any reason, adding that even if her son was sick it is not the job of the police to carry him away. “If that was even case should they take him to the hospital or police station?” the old woman asked.

Demolition departments’ denial
Head of the demolition at the Department of Physical Planning Mr. Amadou Bachilly in response to the complaints of the residents affected by demolition in Babylon denied participation of his department in the exercise.

He said they have not conducted any demolition in Babylon but was quick to add that they have done demolitions in Lamin village few weeks back and not in Babylon.
He dismissed claims of his department’s participation as rumours. He warned that if anybody tampers with any leased private plot no matter how long you settle there you will one day leave the place.

He further said that those residents living in the areas where they conducted demolition have no documents to indicate that the place they are occupying belong to them.

Amadou Bachilly finally said: “This is the first time we have been conducting demolition in Lamin,” adding that lease document of the state are respected valid documents and with regards to land ownership they will not compromise the integrity of the state for any body.”

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