(JollofNews) – For the past years, I am being hunted by the memories of a Mercedes Benz taxi ride I had in the Gambia from Tallinding to Banjul.
The car was pouring black smoke that was choking me and I suggested to the driver that his head gasket had blown and that to proceed may damage the engine beyond repair. The driver had taken the fare and he explained I was his only client that day and that he needed the 50 Dalasi fare to buy medication for his sick mother at home. I had £700 in my wallet and never even offered him a tip.
One notable act of heroism that touched my conscience this week to prick this memory was Magistrate Patrick Gomez’s acquittal of Mustapha Njie, a Mercedes Benz taxi driver, who was charged with causing the death of Ya Binta Jarjue.
Ya Binta was killed early this year in Manjai when armed soldiers open fired at Mr Njie’s taxi after he failed to stop at a military checkpoint.
Magistrates Gomez’s sound judgement and the measure of his leniency is worthy of high commendation.
This case contains many elements that paint a very disturbing picture of Gambian police procedure in the execution of their duty. Ya Binta’s death was caused by a bullet to the head that was shot by the pursuing soldiers, who left the scene of crime with their weapons and incriminating evidence without being challenged by the police.
For the sake of justice, this must remain an open case with further investigations need to establish who fired the fatal shot and on whose orders. The family of Ms Jarjue must be compensated either through a successful prosecution of the offender or by alternative means that commensurate with their grievous loss. Only through justice can the family begin to find closure and start the healing process.
When considering the health and safety of unsuspecting travellers in Gambian taxis, there must be minimum requirements set through proper licensing and supervision of those tasked with transporting people safely between destinations. The “dog fight” between the green and yellow taxi drivers is well known to me. In all my many taxi journeys in the Gambia, I have never found a single taxi that was road worthy of driven with care. When one speaks of development, this state of disrepair of the Gambia’s private transport system is manifested in almost all walks of commercial life. Haphazard, chaotic and downright dangerous.
It certainly does not add any confidence to know that dodging bullets from trigger happy soldiers for passengers is a further accident that could and should be preventable in any civilised society. This is an unfortunate development indeed.