Street vendors were arrested in Kukujang this weekend for hawking during a national environment cleansing day sanctioned by the country’s President Yahya Jammeh.
Scores of women were arrested by the police for selling “akara” and pancake on the streets.
The police said on Saturday that it was illegal for them to sell on the streets until after 1pm. Repeated calls to talk to the station officer were declined and authorities refused to disclose the exact number of those detained in Kunkujang.
Reports of additional arrests in the Greater Banjul Area mostly in Serrekunda could not be independently verified and a Seargent who declined to give his name said our reporter could call back on Monday.
The police have not said if the women will be charged with violating the ‘setsetal’ law or be discharged at a later time. They were still being held without charges.
Many women in The Gambia make ‘akara’ as a breakfast item in The Gambia and sell to make ends meets. At least 74% of rural Gambia lives on less than a dollar a day.
In the summer of 2004, The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh launched ‘operation clean the nation’ and the people have been forbidden to engage in any activity of the national cleansing day. But Mr. Jammeh said market vendors were an exception. Those found violating the presidential decree were subjected to arrest, although there has never been a prosecution.
“Operation Clean the Nation is a continuous permanent operation, because it is part of Operation No Compromise. Operation No Compromise is to get rid of anything that is bad, and the essence of Operation Clean the Nation is to get rid of Malaria and other avoidable diseases,” said Jammeh. “This is the only reason why we are putting emphasis on Operation Clean the Nation. And, of course, also to give people a sense of responsibility, in keeping the environment clean.”
There is no law officially banning hawking and selling on the streets on the presidentially sanctioned national cleaning day but pronouncements by the country’s longtime ruler have been equivalent to the supreme laws.