BY Almamo Kamaso
In an exclusive interview with honorable Sahiou Jawara a GDC elected Chairman for the Kuntaur Area Council(KTR), he spoke on a range of challenges, successes and the way forward for his region. The challenges centered on the lack of clean drinkable water, access to the rice fields and the lack of radios stations in his region.
Daily News: Since you assume office in 2017, what were your major challenges?
KTR Chairman: My major challenges are many but key is the lack of clean drinkable water and access to rice fields and farm lands. When I took over there was almost nothing on the grounds. I found FRG hand pumps which are outdated and one cannot find spare parts for them. What Council is trying to do now is to dig bore holes, with outside support but even with that Council cannot dig a complete bore hole within a year due to our financial strength. Council has to wait for a year to complete digging one.
Daily News: How many bore holds have you sank so far?
KTR Chairman: My Council did sink 6 bore holes and we are preparing to dig the 7th one soon. These bore holes are at Jahawure Mandinka at Lower Saloum, another at Mbayen in the Upper Saloum, Nyaga Bantang, Sami Tenda , another in Ndramen in Nianija, Sitokoto these are the ones we dig. To address water challenges we will need 330 bore holes, because I have 330 villages in my region. My target is to have one in each of the villages. Chairman Jawara said they are the only region without enough clean drinking water, Kuntaur Area Council. He called on government to focus on the region. Jawara continued to say the biggest town in the region is Kaur and when it comes to water in Kaur that is another thing. To be honest Kuntaur region is left out by central government.
Daily News: Would you say this water issue should have been addressed by the Central government or Kuntaur Area Council?
KTR Chairman: The Central government should address these issues of water challenges, as the poorest region, that has no banks or hotels, and the saddest thing is there is no radio station in my region and that is hindering lot of developments and supporting awareness creations projects . No radio or TV to watch, even this COVID-19 nowhere for my people to get information. My region is the most venerable region.
Daily News: Don’t you think the provision of a radio station falls squarely on members of the region and not Central government?
KTR Chairman: For us that is the saddest thing we are facing, I know it is the members of the community who should initiate such as private radio stations in the region as it is happening in other regions. Most prominent or successful businessmen and women residing in the Kombos are from the region.
Daily News: What is your message to such people?
KTR Chairman: My message to them is that they should invest part of their money at their birth places, no one will come and do that for them. He said CRR North is the mother of Gambia , as he said most the Gambian people derived their origin from here, I see no reason why CRR North should be under developed.
Daily News: Let’s shift this interview to other areas of your concern, you talk about access to rice field and farm lands. What is council doing to mitigate that challenge?
KRT Chairman: Yes, you know to be honest what I just said is quoting from our Strategy development plan and is captures that water is a key challenge and access to farm lands. The council is currently re-habilitating some of these feeder roads. But for the farm lands we need more machines and we cannot get such big machineries. So it’s only the central government that should come to aid of her people. CRR north can be a food basket not only for Gambia but the whole of Africa. Throw anything on the ground it will germinate, any for that matter. We have the moist fertile land in the world. Central government is wasting millions if that is spend on developing agriculture we can feed to whole Africa talk less of Gambia.
Daily News: Is government paying subvention to your council?
KTR Chairman: Government was supposed to pay 25% of our budget as subvention, this is not happening with the Kuntaur Area Council. Up to the time you are speaking to me they have not paid a butut to us. What they are paying is their taxes and rates. We are calling on central government to pay what they are supposed to pay. Councils are parallel to government. He cited Brussels as an example that when their central government failed for 2 years it was the local councils who steps in. He referred to decentralization as fake it’s not happening. He said if they are not playing their part let them decentralize then we can take our development in our hands.
Daily News: Since you talked about your Challenges, now what can you call your success?
KTR Chairman: Very little as am only two years in office but we did score some success, such as we have building a multi-purpose center in Kaur, which is almost at completion. Council has constructed 10 cantons at Laminkoto. Six or seven bore holes at various places in the region, at Ballangarr we did construct five cantons, and we have already awarded a contract to upgrade our hand pumps to a solar system. The last but not the least success, is that in partnership with the office of IGP, and relocate the station on the high way.
Daily News: One of you major sources of income is derived from the Lomus now that , the Lomus are not allow to open due COVID-19 REGULATIONS , tell me what negative impact those that have on your council?
KRT Chairman: Council is losing up to D29, 000 every month because we collect nothing less than D10, 000 weekly and as we speak now council is almost at bankruptcy level. If government did not give us what they promise that is eight month salary, then we have to go for over draft which we never wanted to do.
Daily News: What is the way forward for the KTR council?
KTR Chairman: My way forward is the Councils strategy, which is a bottom/top approach.
The GDC Elected Chairman told the Daily News that he is a GDC Chairman but he has in his region different political members of the National Assembly with other ward councilors said for all are his friends and elections are over it is only development that he see. He thanks his team at council for supporting him to date and he thank Allah for giving us the strengthen and powers. He thank the Daily News for reaching out to him and his council.