Release| The Gambian Environmentalist And Executive Director Of GANB Fired

Modou Sowe

The Gambian environmentalist and Executive Director of the Gambia Association for Nature and Biodiversity Modou Sowe has been fired 10 days after he left for COP 15 Part 2 in Canada. The decision was made in a Board Meeting and announced in a Press Conference by the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. 

According to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of GANB Mrs Fatou Jallow, the decision was made at a Board Meeting. Speaking to the press, Mrs Jallow said this is one of the most difficult decisions of the institution because Modou is irreplaceable, however, the decision is made to protect the institution’s reputation as its funds and partners are not happy with the present role of the Executive Director in protecting the Monkey Park at Bijilo. 

We have engaged him in dialogues to desist away from such activities but his commitment to the protection of nature is beyond our control, however, we as an institution need to protect our source of funding for sustainability. 

Therefore, we cannot lose our funding and partners to his actions. We are a charitable organization that depends solely on donations, goodwill and donor funds. We are here to complement the efforts of the government and its partners in the development. If we keep pushing harder we might lose them as well as our other supporting partners which might not be good for us. 

Fatou concluded that he is wishing Modou the best in life and she regrets seeing him part with GANB. When asked about their powers to fire the founder, she answered, the organization operates in a democratic system as stated by the by-laws. 

It gives no individual the ultimate power to run the affairs of the institutions and all members as well as administrative and board members are governed by the by-laws. We know he will surely be missed but our donors are threatening to seize funding if we continue to fight for the protection of reserve lands. In an online interview with Modou Sowe, for his part, Modou said that the decision was not a surprise because many of the people on the Board are seeing the financial gains not what the organization stands for.

 I will rather stay away from the activities of the organization than be controlled by funders. I always make this clear to all partners that our interest is to protect nature and biodiversity, however, if their funding is against our cause we will have to revisit their strategies because what makes us GANB is the protection of nature. 

Delivering on why his service was terminated, Modou said it is due to my role in the protection of Monkey Park. Previously, the government decided to bring down part of the Monkey park for the construction of the OIC Conference called the Sir Dawda Kiaraba Jawara Conference Hall. We protested against the government’s decision. However, with a series of dialogues and negotiations, we were assured by experts that the Monkeys and other organisms will relocate to the nearby WALIC areas.

 Now again, they are requesting to construct a New US embassy in the WALIC centre too with no options for the Monkeys and other living organisms. This is not the best option for our cause as environmentalists and GANB. I will love to see the best US Embassy constructed in the Gambia and we have good reserve lands for this purpose like the space opposite Right Choice Supermarket on the Senegambia Highway, Lamin behind St. Peters, Banjul in the Fences of the former President, Batokunku sea side fenced by the former president etc.

 These areas will have a limited impact on nature and biodiversity. I fully understand the board’s position; they prefer havingthe funds and diverting their cause. If someone is feeding you, you barely will go against his decisions; we are having a master-servant relationship in this case. 

It seems like the partners were given their funds to protect their interests than protect nature and biodiversity. If projects and programs of the government and partners are supporting us to support their not ours, I am not in that partnership, he said. Answering the question about his role in the March 2017 and October 2022 protest, he acknowledged participating in the protest against the government’s decision to allocate the Monkey Park for the construction of the OIC Conference Hall and New US Embassy. 

He said I lobbied for funding from concerned institutions with an interest in the protection of the areas and also organized some people to travel to the events. I also personally participated in the event which I am proud of because the park is the greatest tourist attraction in the Gambia and tourism is the highest contributor to the GDP of the Gambia, therefore, my cause is for both national development and the protection of nature. 

I was never in support of the idea of violence rather it was a peaceful protest to express our view on the government’s decision. Many people can attest to this, but I understand that the accusations were to silence us. 

Now, they forced my institution to fire me too. I am an environmentalist wherever I am and I will continue to love nature he concluded.. 

It is noted that globally, environmentalists are being targeted for their roles in protecting nature and the environment. In others countries, they are prosecuted or murdered. It seems like Modou is also becoming a victim of such circumstances. If he is in danger, he will not tell us anything.


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