Land Dispute Tears Sotokoi Apart

Residents of Suma Kunda in Sotokoi, West Coast Region who are involved in a land dispute with near-by Medina Sotokoi over the weekend laid a vigil in the affected area at the village to resist an eviction order. “We were forcefully evicted in 2015 without notice during Jammeh’s time but today we will not accept to be evicted from our land,” said Lamin Jammeh, a resident of Suma Kunda. The dispute between Suma Kunda and Medina Sotokoi has been dragging since 2005 and in 2015, a High Court judge, Awa Bah ruled in favor of the people of Medina Sotokoi and ordered the eviction of people who built homes on the disputed land.

But according to the residents of Suma Kunda, that ruling was influenced by the authorities because the Tamba Kunda family had promised to allocate the land to former President Jammeh. Speaking to The Standard at Suma Kunda yesterday, another resident Musa Kujabi argued that it is not logical for Medina Sotokoi to claim ownership of the land because even the person who hosted them, one Foday Camara, was himself a guest of Suma Kunda, a village which was in existence well before the beginning of slave trade. He said when Suma Kunda was founded by one BuramaKujabi, the only existing villages in the area were Faraba Banta and Faraba Sutu. He said it was only in the 1950s that FodayCamara, also called Bappa, migrated from Guinea Conakry and was allocated the very land in question who later named it Taneneh-Sotokoi. He said part of this settlement was allocated to the TambaKunda family by former Chief Faa Toura Sanyang. “Foday Camara in turn hosted Sarja Tamba whose son is now the leader of those claiming ownership of our land.” He said when one Massy Tamba took them to court, again the High Court ruled in favor of Medina Sotokoi because at the time they were using former President Jammeh’s name to influence the decision of the court. “After that court ruling they forcefully destroyed our farms during the rainy season and planted a rice field for Jammeh,” he added. Mamudu Touray, one of the persons affected by the eviction order and has been residing in the village for over ten years, vowed not to quit, adding that he would rather die than vacate his compound. “We want to call on the government to immediately act on the matter to avoid another Faraba Banta or Gunjur and Berending,” he warned.

Another resident Gibriel Badgie, a differently able, who was also served with an eviction notice, said he has been living in the village for the past 20 years and he too will not move an inch. “If the government cannot protect us and our proprieties, we will protect ourselves and we are ready to do anything to stay in our compounds,” he said. Meanwhile, when contacted for his reaction, Massy Tamba, the man spear heading the claim on behalf of Medina Sotokoi, denied that his village has ever been under the jurisdiction of Taneneh or Suma Kunda. He said the area was allocated to his father by the late Chief of the area Faa Touray Sanyang and that when his father arrived; no one was in the area. “It is not entirely our interest to evict anyone, all we want is for the people of Suma Kunda to acknowledge that the land in dispute belongs to us,” he said.

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