Thanks to the Peace Committees established as part of their participation in Tostan’s Peace and Security Project, communities on the Sene-Gambian border are overcoming longstanding conflicts and building sustainable peace.
Alasan Jallow participated in the Peace and Security Project from May to December 2013 in the Wuli West district, Upper River Region (URR), The Gambia. Through the project, he learned skills in conflict resolution and mediation and how to develop grassroots social networks. Alasan Jallow and Sombadoh Bah, a Community Management Committee (CMC) Coordinator in Sare Ngai, formed a Peace Committee to solve a three-year long local land dispute. The dispute was held between the community of Sare Ngai and three communities on the Senegal border; Sare Giliga, Sare Eli, and Sinchu Sambarou banned Sare Ngai cattle owners from using a particular stretch of forest for grazing. In addition, the high demand for farmland was further exacerbated by an increase in population.
As a first step, Alasan Jallow and Sombadoh Bah reached out to the village chiefs and council of elders of Sare Giliga, Sare Eli, and Sinchu Sambarou for a cross-border meeting where they mediated the dispute. Following this meeting, representatives from the three communities lifted the ban and established a 100 meter wide cattle track. To further promote sustainability and peace, the Peace Committee also recommended that the three villages each identify two representatives who will be responsible for facilitating and mediating issues relating to peace and security.
Thanks to this peaceful conflict mediation, leadership in each community embraced the principles of the Peace and Security Project. Kally Jallow, the Sare Giliga village chief, was grateful to the Sare Ngai Peace Committee and deemed it a ‘noble initiative,’ but also challenged the cattle owners to fulfill their responsibility to control their animals and urged the farmers to exercise patience and always dialogue in solving their problems. A senior police officer asserted that the Peace Committees are an important initiative that complements law enforcement and the Ministry of the Interior’s efforts to maintain peace and stability.
While the 100 meter wide cattle track created is undoubtedly a great victory for all four of the communities involved in this peaceful dispute resolution, the foundation of dialogue and respect established is perhaps an even more impressive outcome. These communities have become partners in peace. As one village chief expressed, the Gambian and Senegalese are one people with a common interest in living in peace.