Officials of European Union Access to Justice and Legal Education project on Wednesday commenced a two-day forum for 30 Alkalolu selected from the 5 administrative regions of the country at a ceremony held at a hotel in Kololi.
Declaring the forum opened, the Chief Justice of The Gambia, Emmanuel Fagbenle, expressed gratitude to the EU project under the leadership of Mr Liberto for the great contribution they have done to sensitise Gambian communities were customary law and practise needs to be firmly entrenched.
Chief Justice revealed that The Gambia practiced three systems of administration of law, which he said, are the customary, cadi court system and the common law system. He stated that all of them work together to provide a robust and vibrant environment that is needed to develop the country.
He noted that under the leadership of President Jammeh, the Government has given adequate attention to the development of these three sectors, so that it can represent people’s interest and meet their challenges to cope with the pace of development needed in the country.
According to him, the courts operated by the Chiefs and Alkalolu form the bedrock of what the majority of Gambians need to exercise and enjoy their rights such as civil rights, property rights and all other family related rights at the larger part of the Gambian community.
CJ Fagbenle encouraged participants to share the knowledge learned with their colleagues.
Shelley M Liberto, EU Access to Justice team leader, said the project funded by the EU, is regarded as one of the most important programmes as the sensitization exposed alkalolu to various aspects of the law.
“We regard you (alkalolu) as one of the most important actors in the justice system in The Gambia.” he stated.
Liberto observed that alkalolu are on the front line of justice dispensation at the village level so their role in the justice system as the primary mediators of disputes is extremely important.
The sensitization forum, he went on, was planned for at least a year within the context of the two-year project, saying they involved the best consultants to execute this programme.
He maintained that the consultants have succeeded in training at least 250 alkalolu countrywide and also produced a handbook for the beneficiaries.
For his part, Fafa Edrissa Mbai, one of the consultants, revealed that there are 1810 alkalolu in the country and that the position of alkalo is as old as the village.
Recognising their role as the primary focal point for dispute resolution, Mbai acknowledged that their effort in the maintenance of peace and the promotion of goodwill in the society, is very significant.
He continued that, “With the support of the regional governors we trained 50 alkalolu in all the 5 regions making it a total of 250 alkalolu. Out of this total, we have now selected 6 from every region to reflect on the training we had conducted and to suggest ways and means of improving the training so that from now on things will be better.”
Mbai emphasised that the purpose of the lessons learnt is to reflect on the sensitisation that they had conducted countrywide, so as to come up ideas and suggestions of improving it.
by Fatou Sowe