Monday, July 22, 2024

Opposition Leader Ousainu Darboe Urges President Barrow to Halt Development on Disputed Government Land

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By: Michaella Faith Wright

Speaking at a rally in Brikama on Saturday, opposition leader Ousainu Darboe called on President Adama Barrow to stop development on a contentious plot of land in South Atlantic, asserting that the property belongs to the government.

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Darboe initially raised concerns about the land allocation at a press conference last month, seeking clarification on whether the land had been allocated to President Barrow. In response, Land Minister Hamat Bah confirmed the allocation in a press statement, stating that no one was occupying the plot and that he had used his discretion to allocate it to Barrow. Bah drew parallels to similar allocations received by Darboe and his family, accusing the UDP leader of attempting to create controversy and malign the president. “The president, like every Gambian, has the right to be allocated land,” Bah asserted.

However, addressing a rally in Brikama on Saturday, Darboe insisted that the land allocated to President Barrow is government property and not part of an approved layout. “We urge you to cease any development on that land because you are developing land that belongs to the government of The Gambia, not an approved layout. This is a government asset. In fact, it’s akin to committing an economic crime, and I believe anyone involved in that can rightly be charged,” Darboe stated.

Responding to the Land Minister’s claims that he and his family benefited from government land allocations, Darboe clarified his position: “When I received my land, Mr. President, you were still in school, and I did not hold any political position that could influence the minister of lands to allocate land to me. I was just a civil servant, like all others who received similar allocations then. We received it because, according to the eligibility criteria, we deserved it.”

Darboe further argued that his daughter, Fatoumatta Fenda Darboe, received her land allocation after he had left office, making it impossible for him to influence the decision. The same applies to his wife’s allocation in 2022. “To claim that I was Foreign Minister and Vice President at the time of those allocations is misleading. They misused their official position, and I never used my position as a minister to obtain anything for my relatives or myself. I have never done so because I considered it morally wrong, even if it was not legally wrong,” Darboe emphasized.

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He challenged Land Minister Bah to explain why he “took our land and gave it to Adama Barrow,” adding, “That is what you need to explain to the Gambian people, not release comical press statements.”

Darboe called on every Gambian to demand that the appropriation of government property be reversed and the property returned to the government of The Gambia. He advised President Barrow to halt any development on the disputed land in his own interest. “If you proceed, and there is a change of government, you will lose, because you have been warned not to continue. I advise you and the minister that if you have any moral conscience, these are actions that should not happen. Even Yahya Jammeh, despite all his actions, never appropriated government land in his name. How can you come into government to rectify wrongs and then perpetuate them, expecting Gambians to turn a blind eye?” Darboe questioned.

The controversy surrounding the land allocation has sparked significant debate within the Gambian political landscape, with calls for transparency and accountability in the management of public assets.

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