Late at night, with their belongings in the rain, they sat in front of a mosque, where they had sought refuge, but the temple was too small to accommodate all of them. With nowhere to go the house of God provided temporary sanctuary.
An Aging Gibrilla Kamara is one of the over one hundred people out in the cold night. He explained that they were surprised to wake up and see armed Police Officers in front of their houses with heavy duty machines ordering them to get out.
“It’s the biggest surprise of our lives; we had no prior notice that they were coming to do this harm to us,” said Kamara seemingly depressed.
“Even this mosque, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We have nowhere to go with our families.”
Kamara, a father of seven, said his source of livelihood- a grocery store operated by his wife – had been broken to the ground along with the home he built 20 years ago.
Looking at the debris of the house I suffered to build makes me feel bad, he said. “This act is inhuman, and they only target poor people like us,” he added.
The demolition, which was reportedly ordered by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, started along the Lumley Beach, from the Aberdeen roundabout to the Atlantic Beach Bar area, about a week ago targeting what the authorities described as “illegal and makeshift structures”.
According to the acting Minister of Tourism and Culture, Kadija Sesay, the demolition exercise is to give a facelift to the country’s touristic community and ensuring a safe environment.
“This demolition exercise is being carried out in collaboration with other government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. It is part of strengthening the legislative framework and developing a master plan that will transform the touristic potential of our main beach,” said Sesay.
She said the exercise will continue until the demarcated areas are retrieved from ‘squatters’ and stressed that nothing will stop them from doing what is right.
“What we are doing is legal; we have been engaging them on our plans but they refused to leave so we have no option,” she explained.
Some meters down the road from the mosque is the house of the Member of Parliament of the constituency; and in front of his house is the demolished structure of Momoh, a father of two whose suckling wife sat awkwardly on the rubble with their kids by her side.
“This is selective justice,” Momoh said in tears. “Our house was destroyed while the house belonging to the politician was untouched. This is unfair.”
However, the Member of Parliament has reportedly been given notice to evacuate as his house has also been marked for demolition.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai describes the action by the authorities as “illegal as it was done without any prior notice to the occupants as prescribed by law”.
“Even if they are squatters they have to be given at least 7 seven days prior notice as prescribed by the law. It is illegal and a gross violation of the rights of the people and we will be filing papers to the court seeking compensation for these hapless people,” said Emmanuel.
Reporting by Amadu Lamrana Bah