OBSERVER's JULY 22nd BUS CONTINUES TOUR OF WESTERN REGION
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Brikama has always been the administrative town of the Western Region, but at no point has it been more worthy of its administrative status than in recent years. 15 years of endeavour by a government that had from the onset dedicated itself to uplifting the status of its people has seen exponential progress in one of its important towns, Brikama Town, both in terms of infrastructure and the living standards of the people.
The reconstruction image of the Western Region, as reported earlier in the Fonis, appears to be even more pronounced here in Brikama than anywhere else in the rest of the region - from road rehabilitation to expansion in portable water as well as electricity supply.
By every respect, this town represents a real success story for a government that has expended every single opportunity that come it way in its incessant efforts to decentralize development.
Already the Westfield-Mandinaba Road construction project, which has since been completed, has projected Brikama Town in every respect. Most parts of it today have the look of a newly built city. Recent years have seen key settlements within the region linked to this town by modern class roads - the Kombo Coastal Road, Kartong-Brikama Road, Brikama-Gunjur Road, Brikama-Sanyang Road, etc. - all of these have made accessibility to Brikama easier, boosting business enormously within the region especially here in Brikama. The engorgement in the population of this town is a lucid indication of its changed status, and, according to Lang H Bojang, a man who seems to know the town very well, all this is as a result of easy access to Brikama, which has been made possible by the good roads.
"Most people are now staying home, using the money they have been spending on rent somewhere else to develop themselves and their homes," Conteh said. Brikama is among the first settlements that enjoyed street lightening, in the early days of the Revolution. That was evidently part of an initial move of modernizing the town. Presently, the car park in Brikama is said to be the biggest in the country, and clearly, it is the most organised car park throughout the region.
On arrival in this increasingly blossoming town, the Observer July 22nd Bus crew got somehow befuddled as to where to start. Everything looks new. A closer examination reveals a carefully calculated approach that gives due attention to all the developmental sectors: health, education, infrastructure, agriculture, etc.
An ongoing Ballast Nedam contracted water project entails the digging of 19 more boreholes, which will add onto the current operational 21 boreholes in the whole of the region. Residents in areas of Brikama such as Kembuje and Darsilami will for the first time have access to pipe borne water. This project is nearing completion. "This is part of an overall effort of bringing clean and safe drinking water to everybody living in the Western Region, and we are very close to achieving it," said Serign Modou Joof, the public relations officer at the Brikama Area Council.
Electricity supply is key in any effort of expanding a town as big and important as Brikama. Electricity supply in this town has become stable and effective over the years, thanks to the consolidated gains effected at the level of the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC).
The Gambian leader, President Yahya Jammeh, recently stated his resolve of electrifying the whole of the Western Region. Already ongoing work at the premises of the Global Electrical Group (GEG), an independent power producer currently reinforcing NAWEC's capacity, serves as a fervent testimony of how close government is to realizing this rather ambitious task. It is anticipated that with the addition of two more generators, bringing to 8 the total number of generators currently at hand, every Gambian living on the soil of the Western Region will have access to electricity supply. The impending effects therein are clearly enormous.
A number of schools have cropped up within these 15 years of APRC government, with due attention given to areas of Brikama which had been totally forgotten prior to July 22nd Revolution, the likes of Jamisa and Kabafita.
Jamisa Upper Basic School was built in 1996, just two years into the Revolution. Brikama Upper Basic School has received a number of boosts, upgrading it into a modern school. Many other satellite villages around Brikama such as Manduarr, Penyem, Busura, Kitty, all have either an upper basic school or a basic cycle school. The stories in all these villages before 1994 are the same; the children trekked long distances to school. Over the years, Brikama Health center has been upgraded into a major health center, to meet the ever demanding health service needs of a community with an ever increasing population. The center now has more facilities than it had ever had, providing more services for the people of Brikama, and the many referrals it gets from within the region and beyond.
Recently, a large, separate maternity ward was constructed, described as the largest in the region, with 28 beds and a lot of other facilities. Very soon, the center will have, for the first time, a mortuary. And a formerly chronic problem of access to water for use in the hospital has been solved with the construction of a borehole specifically for the center.
Brikama Car Park was inaugurated in 2005, as part of that year's 22nd July Revolution celebrations. It is said to be the biggest car park in the whole country, with a capacity of 270 vehicles, representing 19 countries within the sub-region including Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry. "President Jammeh's 15 years of leadership are indeed life changing for Gambians," the vice president of Brikama Garage Committee, Ansumana Ceesay, told the Observer crew.
There is vast difference here from the former garage, which was more or less a makeshift one, awfully wanting in space. The new garage, apart from being fitted with lights, has a mosque for worshippers as well as toilet facilities. And the laws in place are sure of keeping this place habitable for a long time to come.
At the Brikama Youth Center, the Observer July 22nd crew met Saikouna Sanneh, a National Assembly member (nominated) , who is spearheading a daunting challenge the youths of the town have tasked themselves with - championing of the crusade of food self sufficiency. Honourable Sanneh pointed to four tractors parked in the premises of the youth center which he said the president of the Republic donated to the youths of the Western Region a few weeks back.
"No nation can be developed with being food self-sufficient, and no nation can be food self-sufficient without the involvement of the youth," the honourable member said. And he added that "this is why the president does not take lightly the contribution of the youth. And the youth of the Western Region will endeavour not to disappoint him."
Brikama Fish Market
The Brikama Fish Market, currently under construction, will change drastically the manner in which fish, quite a popular diet in the country, is handled. One very important thing to note is that the choice of location for this D3 million project, which is at an advanced stage, is well chosen in that it took into consideration proximity to community fishing centers like Sanyang, Tujereng, Gunjur and Tanji. Already there is a good road network in place to facilitate this.
Other major developments of the APRC government in Brikama include the relocation and construction of the Brikama Craft Market as well as the introduction of a high court to the town. This, in the words of BAC's PRO - Sereign Modou Joof, is part of the overall "decentralization of justice." Decentralization itself, according to Joof, ensures that power goes back to the people, that the people take the decisions regarding their destiny. Many other projects aimed at enhancing the living standard of the local people based on their trades have been embarked upon across the region, notably in villages in the outskirts of Brikama, the likes of Gunjur and Sanyang.
A ride on the Brikama-Gunjur Highway, constructed as part of the Kombo Coastal Road project, was quite an experience for the Observer July 22nd Bus crew. Before being constructed, this road was a hell for the people of the villages on this route. It leads to very many important villages in this part of the country. Besides, the road has kind of reinforced the actual image of not only Brikama but the many major settlements like Gunjur, Sanyang, Jambanjelly, Kartong, etc. which it leads to. And all these major settlements have received a substantial level of improvement in development.
Kitty Village is just on the outskirts of Brikama Town. Its people have had to depend on the latter for so many things, including even access to education. In 2000, the government constructed 3 blocks of 3 classrooms each, upgrading what had been a lower basic school into an upper basic school. It offered children of the area the chance to access that level of education for the first time. This school serves a number of other villages within Marakisa, Kassa Kunda and Nyofelleh.
Tanji is a well known fishing center, and therefore, availability of electricity supply has enormously enhanced this trade here. The village also has portable water supply, all thanks to the APRC government. As a way of harnessing the potential of the people of this village, the government established an ice plant - the Tanji Ice Plant. This was inaugurated in 2001. This center does not only serve as a regular source of fish for people through the country, it also exports to neighboring countries like Senegal and as far as Europe. President Jammeh himself, according to official information received from the operators, is on record for having donated a transformer for electricity supply to the facility, worth D1.4M. "For us, this amounts to a perfect demonstration of support for one's people," said Baboucarr Sarr, manager of Tanji Ice plant.
This center has proven beneficial to the people as it ploughs back into the community in the form of training for young people as well as maintenance of social amenities. Sifo Senior Secondary School, established in 2006, is the first ever senior secondary in Kombo South. It was built out of pure necessity as the people had to trek long, long distances. The school has received a lot of boosts from the president himself over the years, in the form of, for instance, two school buses, making transportation of the children of nearby villages as easy as possible.
Tujereng is another fishing center. It has also benefited from a number of development achievements like electricity, pipe borne water supply, a police station, an upper basic school as well as a first class road linking it to other communities.
Gunjur Ice Plant
Gunjur Ice Plant is among the major projects embarked upon by the Jammeh administration in Kombo South between 1994 and now. It was inaugurated on April 14th 2003 by President Jammeh himself, and the idea is to improve on the quality of fish and preservation facilities for inland fish distribution. Three fishing boats at the plant were donated by the president.
Apart from inland fish distribution, the centre also supplies fish to other local fish factories such as Pelican, and NPE, among others. Sanyang Village has also been transformed into a modern town, with the provision of electricity supply, a new police post, a new market as well as first class roads linking the village to Gunjur, Tujereng, Siffoe, Brikama and other areas in their surrounding.
Malang Bojang, Alkalo of Sanyang Village, told the observer crew that the construction of the road network has especially eased movement within Sanyang and the rest of the settlements in this area. One of the effects of availability of electricity in this area, according to Alkalo Bojang, is that many people are relocating to the village, and this, he said, means that more electricity supply will be needed.
The Alkalo's point was confirmed by the view of Samsideen Sambou, a resident of Sanyang Village. He said since the road was constructed, natives who have been renting around the Greater Banjul Area have taken to commuting to as far as Banjul for work.
The Observer July 22nd Bus returns to base; the tour continues on Wednesday.
This publication is directed by
Pa Malick Faye
Kemo AM Cham
Assan Sallah, Amadou Jallow & Sheriff Janko
Ebou (Taaru) Njie & Nfamara Drammeh
Author: Daily Observer