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Coming home to Janjanburreh: Muhammed L. Saidykhan

My Magazine 2023/06
6 min
Muhammed L. Saidykhan, better known as Justice, is a sports broadcaster, writer, journalist, community development worker, and youth activist residing in Janjanbureh. He shared his personal story with us, and we think it's very inspirational; from his dreams of going to Europe, leaving his job, to his decision of returning to his home village to make a change. He completed high school in 2010. He spent two years of his life waiting for the opportunity to search for greener pasture abroad. Justice was a young man who adamantly wanted to cross the Atlantic Ocean, he thought that it was greener outside of The Gambia and didn’t believe in the slogan of the ˝Tekki Fii˝ (succeeding here). But after two long years of waiting, it dawns to him that it is also greener at home and one can make it here. This article was originally published in March 2021.

Justice was a fan of sports news and would always listen to Mr Pira Gomez, a sports broadcaster on west coast radio. Justice was inspired to become a journalist and he took the bold step to take him to the door of west coast radio and search for his purpose in life in June 2012.

When he said that he wanted to be a journalist, he was asked about his qualifications. He replied ˝I have grade 12˝. So, they said to him that he would be trained. He began his internship as a sports journalist. ˝I remember that I would walk from Sanchaba Sulay Jobe to Kotu, but I was committed˝ he said.

Justice was appointed within six months of his internship and he began working as a sports journalist and writer at west coast radio.

While working, he began to miss home because it has been 5 to 6 years since he last visited Janjanbureh. He took the trip home in 2016 and was opportune to attend a community meeting. This meeting was organized by the Janjanbureh Youth Future Concern Association. They were into community development, tree planting, sensitization programs, etc. But Justice said his passion for community development was not there at that moment.

Justice’s dream was to go abroad and study law. But after waiting for 2 years, he realized he had no funds to go out of the country and study. He had no other choice but to stay back.

Everything changed when he came back to Janjanbureh and met a gentleman called Omar Jammeh. Omar was a passionate youth, who was so committed to community development. This man invited Justice to the JYFCA Congress and he was elected as their vice president and this marked the beginning of his community development work and activism.

When he returned to the Kombo, he decided to quit his job and go back home to take part in community development. His family, friends, and colleagues thought he was crazy to give up a life in the city and live unemployed in rural Gambia. But he believes that he was doing this for his community and himself. Therefore, he didn’t give up and went ahead with his desire.

He consulted his brother with this decision and his brother supported the idea very much. Justice first went to study rural community development at GTTI and got his diploma. In July 2017, he left Banjul to Janjanbureh.

After coming back, he dedicated his life to community work, attending regional matters and youths’ program. He was unemployed and not receiving a salary at that moment, but he was focused and wasn’t looking at the monetary aspect of it. He believed that everyone in the community is doing it voluntarily, so why not him. This earned him a post as PRO in the youth community of the region. Because he was so much into social media, he began to use his skills as a writer to promote Janjanbureh.

This became his passion and commitment. He had a strong team and they were his driving force. After a year of hard work, an opportunity came. He applied for a job as a regional program officer for NYCA and YEP, he was shortlisted and was appointed after an interview. This made things easier and brought him all the resources he needed. Then he decided that it is the right time to reach out to every young people in the last village of the region.

During this interview, he told us how he has been reaching out to different young people in the rural Gambia, who are passionate and hard-working. He told us from 2017 to date he has engaged with fifty thousand young Gambians who believe they can succeed in their regions.

When YEP came in to develop tourism in Janjanbureh, he built interest and join in. He had training as a local tour guide and is a proud local tour guide today. Ideas, like community base tourism were developed where tourist will not just go to historical places and learn about the history of the community or travel to the chimpanzee island to see the chimps but they could also experience the rich culture of the community and their lifestyles like cooking, dressing, and other lifestyles of the locals. This gave rise to the idea of the Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival.

The concept of the Kunkarang festival was developed in mid-2017 with the assistance of a tourism consultant Mr Adama Bah. In 2018 the first edition was hosted in Janjanbureh. It was attended by people from the community and other places in the country as well as tourist from 8 different countries in Europe. It was one day program and it was very successful. He joined the committee in 2019 as the head of marketing and publicity. This concept contributes to the development of Destination Janjanbureh.

After the program, an analysis was made and they believe this can be sustained. Justice with other passionate youth from the community was invited to a meeting. They decided to dissolve the committee for event management and organize training for event planning then form a new committee which was named Janjanbureh Event Cultural Management Association.

The concept was supported by YEP and Ministry of Tourism and National centre for Arts and culture. The event was put on the national calendar of activities.

The festival intended to use the unique cultural heritage of the Kankurang to promote destination Janjanbureh. This was also the best way to preserve the intangible and the tangible culture of the community.

˝Janjanbureh is lucky to have the Kankurang centre.˝

It also served as a means of bringing the community together, especially youths. It is also a platform were the young can showcase their talent, it supports youths who run arts and craft business and also helps the economy of the region. This has most importantly allowed the elders to handover the cultural heritage to the young people. It is a platform that empowers the youths and creating employment opportunity for the youths.

In 2021, the festival was to be cancelled due to the crisis of Covid-19 but they pushed through it and it was held. Despite the financial constraints, since the partners couldn’t support. But it has helped to realize the interest of the domestic market and it has shown that with or without the international market or external support, the community will sustain the festival because 90 % of the finance came from the community.

Towards the end of the interview, he revealed the intention of the committee of JYFCA to develop Janjanbureh into a tourism centre. He said they have a bigger plan for destination Janjanbureh and they are ensuring that accommodations are provided. The government is building a five-star lodge in the Kunkiling forest in Kérésé Kunda which is 20 minutes away from Janjanbureh. It is possible to access it by two routes; by the road or by the river Gambia. They are also training responsible guides for tour guiding, restaurants and bar attendance. They plan to turn Janjanbureh into an attractive tourist centre so that tourist won’t stay in Senegambia throughout their holiday but they would be eager to visit the rural Gambia.

Justice is well known in the community as a hard-working young man who works solely for the growth of his community. He is an example of a proud son of the community and today in Janjanbureh he inspires many young people to stay and build their community.

He ended by saying ˝Lets experience Gambia, My Gambia. Destination Janjanbureh˝.

Send an e-mail to info@my-gambia.com if you want to explore Janjanbureh!

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