#Article (Archive)

On National/Ethnic Reconciliation

Feb 23, 2017, 12:15 PM

Let me start by congratulating President Elect Mr Adama Barrow and the Gambian people home and abroad. Gambians have exhibited character and sense of purpose in the face of tyranny, despotism, and absolutism. For the past twenty two years, Gambians endured chronic brutality, habitual thieving of national property, and mediocrity. Gambians bled, shed tears, and died in despicable conditions.

As a result, the Gambian economy suffered, social and cultural relations were destroyed, ethnic favoritism became order of the day, political institutions collapsed, religious institutions bastardized and so on and so forth. Is there a Gambian who has not been hurt by the “electrical broom”? Is there an ethnic group that has not cried under his whip and sword? Is there an ethnic group that has not been insulted and ridiculed? Is there a mother who has not mourned over the loss of her son or daughter? Is there a security personnel who has not slept in his “five star hotels”? Please, don’t get me wrong. He hated everybody. In a sense he despised himself by doing what he did. All Gambians have been humiliated and dehumanized. May God heal the wounds and germinate seeds of tolerance.

Gambians, I salute you  men, women and children, especially to those of you who nurtured the “audacity of hope”  You came out in large numbers and voted him out. You broke the “electric broom” with your straw brooms; you silenced all his guns with your cool; you shushed his brazen motorcades with your victory and resultant jubilations. You dimmed his light with your songs; “a ye taa, a ye taa wo taa, ga tuloo wafi a ye a wafi.” I say to you alinimbara jeregen jeff njarama nani nowari.

However, if recent events of ethnic clashes and insults are anything to go by, there is a need to rethink this change when the dust is settled. There is a need to design or engineer a new narrative or a new system that can bring all the ethnic groups together under the banner of The Gambia as a nation state.  We are all aware that The Gambia as a nation (as we know it today) was imposed on us by the Europeans. And most importantly, the same Europeans used ethnicity to rule and divide us. Unfortunately, at the time of African independence from colonial rule, many leaders also used ethnicity to divide their citizens and planted cancerous seeds of hatred. Many leaders including our ex-president were culprits of such a menace. 

The same was true for the Europeans. They had very limited idea of the composition of African ethnicities and dealt with it by elevating one group above another for their interest. This was the case in most parts of Africa during colonialism and colonial rule.  Little did these leaders know that using ethnicity to rule pose great danger to national development because of the ethnic character of (New) African states. Take a quick look at every African country where leaders used ethnicity to stay in power. Such countries are frequently entangled in fratricidal struggles and endless squabbles over the limited resources. The end result is lop-sided development and endless wars.

To this end, the new government and Gambians at large should urgently find ways to respect one another and cherish our ethnic differences. We all have what we need from one another. Look at our intermarriages, families, composition of our communities, friendships, musical ensembles (you can have the drums of the Wolof; the ballafon of the Mandinka, the riti of the Fula, the percussions of the Jola, so on and so forth). Thus, the new government needs to quickly set a truth and reconciliation commission (as promised) to deal with all the injustices committed in the last 22 years. Justice must be served. Victims have the right to forgive but perpetrators must be brought before the law to account for their crimes. Remember, these atrocities deprived the nation not only of its financial resources but also of its human resources as well (those who died and those who fled).

Importantly, there is also a need to revitalize or recreate the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE). This can be headed by political or religious leaders  the likes of Halifa Sallah, Sidia Jatta, Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana, Imam Alhagie Ousman Sawaneh, Imam Baba Leigh, Bishop Hannah Heim Faal and many others who are well positioned to sensitize the citizens and urge all and sundry to come together. The government needs to call on experienced and educated persons to take center stage in national reconciliation and nation building.

Finally, the new government should set up a fund to support compensate victims. This can be lump sum or otherwise to enable victims to recover part of their lives. 

Bala Saho