Thomas Jefferson has once famously states that he hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson wrote those words 244 years ago.
And still in some countries, for over generations, these ancient code of social backwardness known as the caste system and others have defined how people live and whom they marry. It doesn’t only stops from The Gambia, but even in the U.S., a country that calls itself beacon of democracy is grappling the world’s biggest systemic racism, which needs to be diagnosed and treated as well.
Despite modernisation cum civilisation and even reform efforts, this deep-rooted prejudices and entitlement hold firm among higher castes in some community in The Gambia, while those on the lowest class still face marginalisation, discrimination and violence.
It is again in the news as the country grapples with caste system, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended “urgent” government action to address the caste system that has grappled the Upper River Region and other parts of The Gambia.
As a matter of fact, what is unfolding in Garawol and other Serehuleh communities in URR and other parts of The Gambia cannot be left to continue.
The government must take immediate remedial measures to avert what has the tendency to destabilise that part of The Gambia.
What is even more scary is the fact that these ancient code of social division are till today narrated to young people in these communities, who also held firm on to those beliefs.
In this present day Gambia, we should look beyond caste system and focus on improving communities especially with recent spike in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. Caste system will not take us anywhere as a country, only to ignite hatred, division and flare conflicts while lags behind community of nations.
In strong worded statement, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which is set up to protect the rights of all people in The Gambia, condemns in the strongest terms all acts of human rights violations and discrimination against the people affected.
It further stated, discrimination of any type or nature, including one based on caste, has no place in a civilised society and certainly not in The Gambia where the 1997 Constitution accords every citizen and resident equal rights and protection and a free and dignified life.
It further stated, “Since October 2019 to date, NHRC has conducted two fact-finding missions to the communities of Diabugu, Koina and Garawol which revealed the existence of the caste system in these communities and that of a long-standing traditional practice that subjects ‘slaves’ to tedious, and sometimes degrading, jobs for their ‘masters’ or ‘nobles”.
"The caste systems of sex and race are inter- dependent and can only be uprooted together."