Gambia: Temperance Not Tribalism, Will See Us Through in Peace And Fraternity

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By Mathew K. Jallow, Madison, Wisconsin

The unsurprising avalanche of criticisms and acrimony surrounding the Coalition’s scorecard, isn’t a departure from the norm; it is the new norm. The concept of a 100-days arbitrary deadline is remiss of reality, and ignores the social and political complexities that besmirch all illusions of substantial development achievement, in such short space of time. Put differently, the whimsical 100-days benchmark patently underscores the ridiculousness of our expectations, which seek to relegate the process of governing into some Shakespearian theatrical drama.

The transcendent paradigmatic nature of political change, over the past five months, has restored a sense of normalcy in our political system, but spawned a pandemonium of spurious expectations that are more a flight of fancy than realistic. But, as surreal as these expectations seem, they represent the legitimate manifestations of decades of deprivation and yearning for political change, even as they demonstrate ignorance of the way government functions, often in slow imperceptible ways.

Evidently, much of the criticisms of the new government are benign expressions of strategic differences, but go a long way into keeping our political leaders aware of the divergent, and often, conflicting voices in the political system. The relegation of political dissent among Gambians as mean-spirited ideological animus, only reinforces the pathological attachment to parochial sectarianism. In the recent past, the Coalition has endured scathing criticisms that are justifiable, if premature, in the process arousing the wave of withering counter-attacks, which awoke Gambians to the sobering realization of the existence narrow partisan loyalties. This wagon circling betrays the common national  aspirations, and sinks the Gambia into sophomoric ignorance, and detachment from reality. It is particularly tragic, in this delicate period of political restructuring in our country, and the likely subtext of a country receding back into its vexatious past.

The ham-handed impulses that polarize Gambian politics along vague ideas of narrow sectarian preferences, must be resisted as pure paternalistic parochialism, which erodes confidence in the Coalition’s ability to construct a truly just political dispensation that excises the demons of the past from Gambia’s body politics. The issue of political surrogacy is pervasive in democratic societies, and have an insidious ability to inadvertently transform free societies into antediluvian oligarchs; a complete antithesis of the concept of democracy, and, therefore, anathema to the aspirations of a free Gambia. The thin veil of tribal affinities has always existed on the margins of Gambian politics, with deleterious effect, which now has the potential to hijack the prospects of creating a truly democratic society. Tribalism in the Gambia has been the political orthodoxy over the past five decades, casting a dark shadow, which has permeated every aspect of life, to create the divisions along narrow sectarian lines.

The general agreement in the Gambia is the need for vigorous intellectual reorientation in order to negate the myths implied by the prevailing sense of entitlement, in so doing, tackle a major part of the underlying dysfunction in our political system. The epic failure of the Gambia’s political system, dating back to the Sir Dawda Jawara era, is characterized by the bloody coup attempt of 1981, and the bloodless coup in 1994. The regressive nature of the sectarian slant that dominated Gambian politics, for the most part, since 1965, has erected a barrier to reconciliation that must be overcome in order to build a fully, culturally integrated society, like the neighbouring sister country; Senegal. The Gambian people must reject the strong, almost gripping Darwinian appeal that nudges our countrymen and women into corners of cultural convenience, and intolerance to diversity, based on the regressive infatuation with tribal domination.

There is consensus in the new Gambia for parity in society and the political system, designed to preclude tribal majorities from impeding citizens in the pursuance of their constitutional rights. The central element of the intellectual realignment of our political consciousness is deference to the Constitution, which, in theory, empowers every Gambian to aspire for the highest office in the land. The constitution inspires equality as the bedrock of our new political dispensation; a true departure from the archaic political disposition of the past several decades. In so many ways, a sad element of Greek tragedy permeates the Gambia’s diaspora political discourses, and the tragedy is that, as a nation, we have learnt little from the seismic political shift of the last two decades.

Frankly, Gambian politics were partly in disarray under Sir Dawda Jawara’s democratic experiment, and disastrous under the tyranny of Yahya Jammeh, and since independence, Gambia has been steeped in Faustian undercurrents, causing the rabid imperviousness to reason and morality. The arch of history does not permit the permanent advantage of tribal domination, which unfairly empowers a slice of society, at others expense. The aspirations for total  political domination have always been challenged by the moralized pontifications of progressive forces, which champion equality in society, thus contextualizing the deep distress inherent in political marginalization. Blanket contempt for sectarian divide, as a guiding moral principle, has generated broad contrarian views, and isolated the demons of injustice into decline and decay.

Paradoxically, the sickening ad hominem attacks and demagoguing of the emerging political system to the point of deifying political leaders, will meet stiff resistance, which has ability to save protagonists from their absurd political excesses. The Gambia’s new political orbit is replete with opportunities, but also of challenges, and only temperance; rather than hubris, will see us through in peace and fraternity.

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