In a globalizing world marred by uncertainty and full of countless threats, the Gambian people continue to yearn for a leader and government that corresponds to their ideas and aspirations entering the 21st Century. From the dawn of independence after wrestling the nation away from British colonial rule, the ethical values and bonds of civility which has come to identity the tiny West African nation has seen the country tagged with the ‘Smiling Coast’ of Africa label, thus synced with the people. We should never lose sight of that – and for better or worse, President Jawara deserves credit in steering the affairs of state post-independence and his dealings in the arena of foreign policy. Above all, the Gambian people have come to be synonymous with tolerance despite the ethnic mix which continues to afflict many of its neighbours, and this has seen the country become the envy of many across the continent.
The premise of this effort was meant to be a scathing attack on the person of Dr. Aisatou Touray for her treacherous behaviour in the just concluded unity convention. It was a betrayal of barbaric proportions and a scandal she may never recover from. Politicians will often cite the privilege of serving in public office but to display arrogance and a sense of entitlement as she did?! The woman has no fibre of democratic value in her, but – I shall let bygones be bygones. And I urge fellow Gambians to do the same ‘we are a tolerant people’ and forgiveness is a big part of that. However, this should serve as a future lesson to anyone attempting to fool the Gambian people, or lie your way into public office. To Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, Halifa Sallah, Amadou Barrow, OJ, Hamat Bah, and the rest of the signatories to this historic accord – ‘’Alaa Barakaah’’ Thank you ‘’Un Jaaraama’’ ‘’Jerreh gen Jeff’’.
In a fast-paced world of continuous noise and motion, it is worth gesturing at history from time to time and breathe, before embarking on any further steps. The people have spoken, and now more than ever waking up to their realities and divisive politics about the situation therein. Those divisions on religious and/or ethnic rhetoric has no place in Gambian society, nor anywhere else on planet earth! We have seen extreme language and tribal bashing from a desperate president and his side-kicks on the campaign trail gunning for pay-day at a later date – but we also remembered the tragedies of RWANDA, KENYA, and elsewhere! To put it plain, Gambians are tired-sick of hearing the same excuses of failures, same lies, and the same undelivered promises! The public deserve progressive thinking, bold and big ideas to transform agriculture, infrastructure of modern highways, rebuild our towns and brand new cities on a grand scale. Evidently, tortoise progress isn’t good enough. The people deserve better – and I suspect President Jammeh himself knows that!
We must also not lose sight of the fact that societies everywhere are under tremendous strain going through changes at a faster rate than, perhaps ideal. African traditions and cultures are invaded and at collision with those of the ‘West’ creating confusion and a culture clash amongst the youth and our elders respectively. Recently at a university seminar on ‘Human Rights’, I found myself quite maligned by peers for forcefully arguing that ‘’The traditional (Islam) and (Biblical) definition of marriage explicitly provides only between a man and a woman. Today, ‘Western societies’ pivot on a sexual cleavage of varying orientations where fantasies and confusions are medically adjudged as genuine – This is harming the family, and the traditional role of man. And it is about the only policy I agree with president Jammeh – hence we must guard against evil vices, allowing our men to be men, preserving some sense of dignity between the sexes! As the case with developed nations everywhere, the United States is fighting ‘met’ addiction ravaging several communities. Africa, the Gambian government in particular, must protect its youth against such harmful stimulants for a population of barely two million – who are to inherit farming and the future workforce in a race attaining the UN sustainable development goals blueprint.
Moving forward – the Gambia should never again accept cavalier leadership from a novice. The office of the president is too sacred and great for an untrained recruit, and the world too complicated with economic issues, and the complexities of foreign policy for on-the-job-learning. The track record of President Jammeh is scary enough to contemplate. The Gambian people are not asking for an unblemished or a perfect leader. What we demand, however, is a competent one and nothing else will do! But then again, the country deserves a benign head of state after the HELLISH status-quo the people have endured under APRC dictatorial rule. As polling day draws nearer, public opinion has it that Gambians will vote for a NEW GOVERNMENT in a landslide; one capable of steering the politico-economic affairs of state – and of their dreams right into an epoch of African progress. The voices gathered from the diaspora echoed similar sentiments with DUGA and such activists calling for TERM LIMITS as a roadblock to tyrannical rule and life-presidents.
In a campaign season of rising hopes, a section of imperious Gambian women are promoting a somewhat feminist agenda to be included into the conversation. Interestingly, however, this has raised eyebrows among certain quarters (men) but these are not new thoughts. In fact, the UN convention on Human Rights has enjoined on governments to prioritise tackling sexism and all forms of injustices women and girls face in everyday life. For the record, the Gambia shall never realise its full potential without the participation of women, and I have no doubt women will be part of the high table going forward. Although not well versed in constitutional affairs, I still urge the government to clearly legislate defining the remit and protection of civil society groups which are enhancing government’s work. ‘TANGO’ – The association of non-governmental organisations must reorganise aligning policies so as not to step-on-each other’s toes in their development programmes working side-by-side with government agencies across the country. However, NGO’s must maintain neutrality in political affairs except where explicitly stated. As a transparent and an accountable champion, I sincerely hope DUGA will soon join the fray on the ground with offices in Banjul, LRR, and BASSE regions respectively – analysing and scrutinizing the executive branch, especially, enhancing checks-and-balances and confidence within the system.
Gambia political analysts have declared in unison that: Ours shall be a democracy built on secular values and social justice. The government must seek to empower citizens where every member is equal and valued. And in terms of trade, the country must seek to revive its manufacturing industry so as to reduce the dependency ratio and susceptibility to price variations and currency fluctuations in the international market. The wealthy in society, foremost, must pay their fair share of taxes starting with the president and his cabinet colleagues. This shall help create a safety-net social programme to uplift the poor and marginalised amongst us enhancing social mobility. Such ideas in turn shall create a middle-class as the engine of our economy driving the retail sector and job creation.
The new government shall also establish an inter-faith adhoc council tasked with fostering closer bonds between the various ethnic groups and religions. In normal circumstances the Gambia does not need this – but we are living in extraordinary times necessitating dialogue so as to soften the blow of divisiveness President Jammeh has subdued Gambians under. His cunning plan was to induce Senegal into a cross-border war; and when this debacle failed, the plan then moved to an ethnic conflict within the country – of which ‘’ALLAH’’ (and the Gambian people) rose up and declared brotherhood with one another. Dictators will do anything to stay in power – It is up to you, THE PEOPLE, to wise up and plan ahead, so as not to be caught up in a trap!
One thing remains certain – Gambians, as a people and society shall rise again. Yes, our politics might seem little dark sometimes but that’s ok. From its origins in ancient Greek, democracy continues to be a work-in-process, never been perfected. It is like a work of art, you got to be chipping at it, every day finding ways to improve on it. And as blurry as the horizon permeates not knowing what the future holds in this defining election, the power of our democracy as reflected in the honourable men and women at the unprecedented ’Hotel Kairaba’ Convention has elevated us all reminiscent of our greats like, J.C Faye, E.F. Smalls, I.M Garba Jahumpa, S.M Dibba, and others.
LESSONS TO LEARN: In recent years the struggle rotated on the hills of solitude starring at a road to nowhere. But because of this agreement, however, the Gambian spirit has been united and strengthened. Today, we are a unified people, structured, getting stronger and prosperous each day. We have also learnt that envy and jealousy breed malicious gossip amongst us destroying the trust we are working hard to rebuild. And although it fair to assess that Gambian courage was tested and deeply shaken in a self-serving system, the shared experience of a hellish 22yrs dictatorship has renewed our RESOLVE. As progressive thinking people assembled on that faithful day, historians shall write that ‘’a revolution unsprung was lit alight by gallants of Gambian democracy at Hotel Kairaba in a progressive accord for the ages’’. Fellow Gambians – please respect ‘agreements’ and unite behind the flagbearer, Amadou Barrow, and together, we shall march towards the true definition of peace, progress, and prosperity.
Written By Gibril Saine