Members of Gambia's Army forces are seen in a statdium in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2016. Picture taken December 5, 2016. REUTERS/ Thierry Gouegnon

Gambian soldiers told to vacate hotel turned barracks

Hundreds of Gambian soldiers lodged at a hotel turned military barracks have been asked to vacate, the country’s Tourism Minister, Hamat Bah told lawmakers.

Gambia’s new government has apparently given the instructions to the army chief, Lt. Gen. Masanneh Kinteh to relocate the soldiers to other military encampments.

The Member of Parliament for the Bakau area, a popular tourist city, Assan Touray asked if Mr. Bah’s office has taken any action to relocate the military personnel at the Hamza Barracks formerly Palm Grove Hotel.

Minister Bah said the negotiations with the relevant authorities on the relocation of the military personnel have reached an advanced stage.

However, the ownership of the Palm Grove Hotel is another issue that the ministry is trying to establish.

“We were made to understand that it was sold to investors who then left the place, and once that is established we will inform the assembly on our next plans,” he explained.

He said President Adama Barrow has given him very clear directives that the Palm Grove Hotel and the Wadner Beach Hotel must be operational for the revitalization of the job situation in the city of Banjul and its environment.

“Therefore, our ministry will do all that it takes to make sure that these facilities are operational possibly in the next two years. Because there are huge investments that need to be done in these particular areas,” he said.

Gambia’s government is helping several hotels, including the Fajara Hotel to revitalize it, “because the government cannot afford to have these facilities closed.”

The Gambia is trying to create thousands of jobs this tourist season and support small businesses that rely on the industry.

According to Bah, his office is in talks with the owners of Laico Atlantic Hotel. The hotel was “taken over, looted and seized” by the-the Jammeh regime.

At least $1.2 million (D50 million dalasis) has been incurred in losses and the owners of the hotel now want The Gambia’s government to reimburse the loss.

Tourism accounts for 20 percent of Gambia’s GDP and the new tourism minister expressed optimism of the outcome of this year’s season expected to start later this month.

(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Editing by Sam Phatey)

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