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GAMBIA: AT THE CONFERENCE CENTRE, 280 OIC DRIVERS GATHERED TO DEMAND PAYMENT FOR THEIR SERVICES

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280 drivers who worked at the most recent OIC summit in the Gambia staged a protest on Wednesday at the OIC conference centre in Bijilo, demanding payment for their labour.

The drivers’ president, Samba Sowe, stated that the group had been expecting payment on the last day of their contract. But instead of finding what they were hoping for, they were disappointed. For the benefit of the country, they had persisted in their duties despite a number of obstacles they had to overcome during their term, such as the fact that some drivers were trained but were not given vehicles.
Today is the last day of our contract, and we were the OIC drivers during the summit. They gave us this call in the hopes that we would receive our money today, but we were left feeling extremely let down. We did a great job performing our duties, but we had many difficulties early on in the job. Nevertheless, we persisted since we were working for our country. Samba Sowe, the president of the drivers, told Kerr Fatou, “I can tell you that even the drivers who were trained, some (more than 100 drivers) were not given vehicles; they brought their own people and gave them vehicles.”

Mr. Sowe said that there was a lack of understanding about the pay that each driver would get, indicating a lack of transparency. They also said that they were only given a meagre daily stipend during their training.
All of it occurred, yet we remained silent. Since the summit is over, they ought to return our funds to us. Furthermore, I can inform you that we have been following them to find out how much they will pay us ever since, but they have consistently declined to do so. We have no idea how much each of them will provide us. They provided us only D500 a day, even during our three days of instruction,” he claimed.

Sowe added that just a small portion of the drivers were given the chance to air their complaints during the meeting with OIC officials, which did little to allay their worries. Furthermore, there were allegations that even OIC employees, such Mr. Kalifa Ceesay, had.
We just concluded a meeting with them, however we don’t feel that it was handled well. Four of us (drivers) will talk, but only three of us spoke at first. I, the president, remained silent during the discussion. We spoke with them further, and Mr. Kalifa Ceesay informed us that he had not received any compensation. He requested that we go see the CEO, but we are unable to do so. Because they ordered us to return home until further notice, we have no idea what will happen next. I slept inside my car in Bakau one day, as did practically all of the drivers here, and I spent four days outside without seeing my family, so it’s utterly unfair. They recruited 11 drivers, so we are now at 280 drivers overall,” he said.

In line with his colleagues, Abou Njie expressed the dissatisfaction of the drivers and emphasised the financial burden resulting from the late payment, particularly for those who had taken out loans.
We have completed our work, and this is the last day. All of us are expected to return to our departments by tomorrow, so we are somewhat upset. Since this is the last day, we were expected to receive our salary today, but all they said was “Albaraka.” We all did our part, yet we aren’t getting paid while they are, which makes us quite unhappy. I didn’t understand why they didn’t pay us; they paid the drivers they brought through the back route as well. Here, a few of us have debts that need to be paid back. It is obvious that they are not ready to pay us if they are instructing us to return home without providing any justification.

Pa Lamin Sanneh highlighted the drivers’ unhappiness, saying that they had gathered for their just remuneration rather than for prayers. He emphasised the sacrifices made by drivers who had to leave behind families and travel great distances, only to be met with hollow promises.

“Because prayers are associated with something, we are not here to accept prayers. If they promised to pay us for our labour, they ought to deliver it to us after. Since some of us travel far, how will someone who doesn’t return home with anything? in particular with someone who abandoned their family at home. Rather than the money we had come for, we were given prayers. We do not come for supplication.

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