Gambia Youth for Unity (GYU) is deeply concerned and condemns the arrest of over forty youths from Kartong, West Coast Region including women and children. “We condemn unethical mining taking place in Kartong and we call on the Gambian authorities to halt mining operations and release the detained youths whose action shows that they were merely protecting their lands from illegal mining,” said Omar Bah, GYU Chair.
On November 20th, a Gambian local newspaper Foroyaa issued a story headlined “Kartong Community questions the benefit of heavy metal mining”. The aggrieved youths from Kartong visited Foroyaa to lodge a complaint, questioning the benefit of mineral mining in their community. According to one of the complainant, it’s alleged that the mining activities have resulted to the death of a 12 year old boy. “A 12 year boy in grade 6, drowned in one of the pits on the day after the Muslim feast of ‘Tobaski’.” Mineral mining has not only resulted in loss of life but is also threatening agricultural production and the pits have cultivated an infestation of mosquitoes in the community.
According to media reports, the youths of Kartong have been protesting against mineral mining for the past three weeks. On November 22nd, reports indicated that a large gathering of villagers came out to protest against mineral miners. Kartong is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and is famous for its tourism, fishing and rich ecosystems. Mineral mining has threatened the livelihood of the villagers and their community by increasing the rate of soil erosion and sea encroachment. Several metric tons are mined from the village each week over the past six to seven years.
The events of November 22nd resulted in a standoff between youths of Kartong and security forces. This ultimately saw scores of youths arrested for exercising their fundamental rights. GYU therefore calls for calm and specifically to Gambian security forces to release all youths arrested for merely exercising their constitutional right, by protesting against mineral mining. As a youth movement we feel compelled to stand up and condemn the unconstitutional arrest of such environmentally responsible youths who should not be subject to illegal arrest and abuse from security forces sworn to protect them.