Protesters have set cars ablaze and damaged properties in Farato, a settlement on the outskirts of Brikama, where tensions flared over a land dispute.
At least a dozen people have been arrested and several people injured including police officers, who were attacked at a local police station and pebbled with stones.
Riot police were deployed to contain the situation in Farato, 18 miles southeast of the Gambia’s island capital, Banjul on Tuesday, where several people decried the demolition of dozens of homes “built on illegally purchased land.”
“The building on the lands were illegal and the Sheriff’s Office ordered the eviction and demolition. The police with Physical Planning Officers went there to enforce the Sheriff’s order and were met with protest,” Police Spokesperson, Foday Conta said.
The area between Bafuloto and Farato has been the subject of a land dispute that was resolved by the high court but residents say they have lived in their homes for more than 15 years, some of which are valued at over a million dalasis [$25,000].
“The people residing in the village said they have been there for the past 15 years, legally bought their homes and have been paying their taxes,” reported journalist Awa Sisay.
The disputed settlement has almost 2,000 homes but authorities say not all of them are affected by the order.
Family members of those losing their homes took to the streets to protest in what turned out to be an attack on business and properties in Farato, whose residents say the disputed land is an inheritance from their grannies.
A local real estate company, Manor Properties had their agents attacked, and at least two of their vehicles and a Caterpillar wheel dozer set on fire.
Gambia has seen several protests in the last two weeks. Protesters resisted the selling of a land in Kololi, in the Kanifing region by one of the country’s ambassadors at large, Saul Frazer of Global Properties.
The Farato incident is regarded a warning for could be similar incidents around the West African nation if a land’s commission is not established to settle disputes.
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow warned local chiefs in a meeting in Gunjur to desist from taking commissions from land sales and selling the same property to multiple people or without authorization and proper paperwork.
(Reporting and Writing by Sam Phatey; Additional Reporting by Awa Sisay; Contribution and Editing by Sainey MK Marenah)