Lamin Darboe (Leicester)

Golden lead is still damaging our environment and they succeeded in defeating all efforts to get them change their actions. Out of the many reasons I dilate on the few which I think has been a general and an abiding malaise that bedevil Gunjur for long.

Lack of unity among various players, poor local management system, lack of financial prudence with poor financial oversight. A dysfunctional village development committee (VDC), a regressive kunda-Kabilo, Karanding- Karaba rivalry and its antecedent insinuations.

The last retardant, Alhamdulillah, is becoming less significant because of the prescience of a vibrant and emerging breed of youngsters. They are not interested in perpetuating traditional rivalries of the old.

To start with, one cannot ignore the overwhelming and overreaching personal architecture, I think singly, the support of one man, Mr Conteh. He was a staunch defender of the Chinese company and his role was never challenged.

Those who want to claim they always defend the truth for Gunjur pretended or overlooked his role. Mr Conteh is the chief architect of the Golden Lead aided by his cousins and friends in Gunjur forums who subtly shielded him from scrutiny and criticism.

They vociferously enjoy talking about his role in helping Gunjurians with electricity poles and his many charitable gestures to the people of Gunjur. His strong support spurs the effrontery and disregard Golden Lead have for the interest of Gunjur. Questioning the role of Mr Conteh seem to be an anathema. What an irony.

Folks if you claim to speak the truth you don’t cheery pick. If you do that, then you’re unjust.
Suspiciously, any time you talk about the role of Mr Conteh, there is unmistakable grave-like silence in the forums . Why…? Well, they cunningly shrug with an uncanny dismissal “ those in glass houses shall not throw stone”. What stone; if you live in modern hard glass house you can afford to throw stone.

Mr Conteh is indeed a very charitable person however his backing for Golden Lead potentially diminish his charity since his actions aid the environmentally destructive actions of Golden Lead. Golden lead didn’t stop at endangering the life and sustenance of this generation but the future generations to come. Golden Lead is depleting our fish resources and thus putting a cheap source of proteins sustenance to peril.

The road to Gunjur beach has become a Sahara like dust reservoir due to excessive and unsustainable use by golden Lead. Houses lining the road are unnaturally dust-coated red not by the choice of the owners but the unsustainable use of the road by Golden Lead logistics network. Not only that, the consequent health hazards arising from gravel dust, presents an even more long term danger.

Why Gunjur’s concerns are ignored. Perhaps political convenience. The people of Gunjur have taken concerted actions because the politicians and those with entrenched financial interest in the enterprise of Golden Lead remain deaf to our pleas with conspiratorial silence.

The pollution is killing thousands of fish every day

Now that the political climate has changed, the Chinese have become more entrenched politically and economically and this new strength, present a herculean task for Gunjur to overcome . The best we can settle for is to convince them to change their behaviour to be a more environmental friendly enterprise that can provide amenities for the community like good roads etc. Otherwise a different approach is needed, community pressure on both Golden Lead and its backers. If all failed, some of sort of non-violent environmental militancy will be appropriate course of action.

Golden lead is becoming bold by the day because they are convinced of the backing from their government in China which is investing heavily in the Gambia infrastructural projects and that seem to shackle the government from taking any meaningful action. Contestably, all those projects are supposed to be stationed in part of the country so far from Gunjur yet we face the catastrophe of Golden Lead actions.
The matter is still in the courts proceeding at snail space while the rape of Gunjur environment and erosion of our fish resources is taking place with even more audacity.

The situation seems hopeless because our own folks are aiding and abating their irresponsible actions which has the potential to destroy for good the weak ecosystem around the nearby river. There has been various instance of violation of Golden Lead promise to store their wastes. They were accused of dumping waste in the neighbouring forest recently and not a single statement was proffered by Golden Lead which show there is nothing golden about them.

Although such reports were unsubstantiated however they are not far-fetched in view of their track record of environmental unfriendliness.

Our own kith and kin support and shield Golden Lead on the bases of economic justification which I find insightful and naive to say the least.

How can you quantify the economic benefit when you don’t understand the operations of Golden Lead, the potential future environmental danger and future danger to our fish stock. They posited that Golden lead provide employment and market for fish mongers and those in that line of businesses. That they provide manual labour for our women folk. This in my mind is not an intelligent analyses because it fails the test of economic argument since all variables are unknown.

Gunjur beach was very resourceful in providing local employment before Golden lead came, the only reason it dwindled was lack of proper management by the VDC and lack of ingenuity to evolve.

Tangi on the other hand had an effective VDC that evolves and take management of their beach resource greater efficiency.  They were more creative in designing fraud-tight administrative systems that minimise mismanagement of funds generated from their beach.

Gunjur is different. The VDC refused to hold simple AGM for 4 years which is shear dereliction of duty. They are less creative and have lax financial controls that relegate financial responsibility to the treasurer who seem to be spending at will with less checks and balances. There was no internal audit oversight nor an internal -control system to monitor all inflows and outflows.

To ensure all monies received are evidenced by receipt and all expenses have supporting documentation. How comes the treasurer spend millions of Dalasis in spurious expenditures without supporting documentation and approval by VDC chairman. An unmitigated wasteful spending spree, the treasurer’s report read and I cannot understand how all those financial violations passed unnoticed by an able chairman.

To add insult or add salt to our wounds, the same people who perpetrated financial malfeasance want to occupy the same positions in the new VDC on the pretext of being re-elected by their kabilos. Those Kabilos sadly failed Gunjur and stand irrevocably to taint their image and reputation which will be remembered in the annals of Gunjur history.

This is shameful and reactionary in this times of a democratic dispensation which pledged to uphold rights of people to manage their affairs according to the laws. Those very local government laws were tilted to help the same miscreants who raped our coffers to re-emerge with vengeance to continue their callous and greedy actions.

A Town that scorn constructive criticism and scrutiny shall not prosper in managing its resources efficiently and shall continue to wallow in underdevelopment. Financial oversight is very crucial in holding those in responsibility to account to make sure they act responsibly.

To ensure that expenditure is expedited only for bona fide transactions. Millions have been received from the beach yet there was no proper documentation and audit trail. The new VDC should make it their first task to carry out an audit of the finances of the old VDC to satisfied us that there was no financial impropriety in the conduct of the old VDC and most importantly to clear the air. If not, they will start a bad precedence that will make it difficult to hold others to account in the future.

Unwanted fish are being dumped in the bushes

Golden Lead have to be environmentally responsive and act in a sustainable fashion to ensure they leave a non-hazardous environment. They have to use sustainable fishing methods so that the next generation have a continuous source of proteins.

To the VDC, I say wake up and stand up to be counted and leave a enviable legacy for your children they can be proud of. Petty squabbles, unchecked greed for self enrichment; some kind of a rat race is an enterprise that make a man par with animals. Nay even below the animals. Pessimism abound but we have courageous youth emerging to take to the bull by the horn and stand to fight for what is right. They are not hampered by kabilo-kunda expedience but with genuine desire to change things for the betterment of the majority not the few. Wassalam.

Lamin Darboe
Leicester, UK