Most disputes in The Gambia may be resolved at the community level through local dispute resolution by seeking the interventions of persons such as the heads of families, village Alkalolu, District Chiefs, religious leaders, and the Gambia Police Force Community Policing Unit. In most cases, there may be no need to deploy government security personnel and proffering formal criminal charges against individuals for their involvement in disputes relating to outcomes of the recently concluded parliamentary election.
Mediation is an aspect of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); that is the structured process of resolving a dispute without litigation. Although incapable of being defined in a universally acceptable way, it is the intervention outside of the legal domain of one or more individuals into an interpersonal or inter-group dispute in order to manage or resolve a conflict. It is by nature and practice consensual and thus voluntary.
This paper confines its scope to two systems of addressing disputes through mediation in The Gambia – Local Mediation and Police Community Policing.
Local mediation is widely practiced by majority of Gambians as they find it to be very effective. In particular, the most vulnerable Gambians often especially value the ease of access, generally faster speed, and low social and monetary costs associated with many indigenous dispute processing modalities which unlike police prosecutions, involve pleading, persuasion, appealing to people, and forgiveness. Thus local mediation platforms enable amicable settlement of disputes at the local community level, and in this way, enhance the spirit of reconciliation and understanding among community members.
The Police Community Policing Unit was established by the Gambia Police Force to provide free community outreach programs to galvanise community involvement in resolving disputes that arise out of social or other relationships, with the aim of reconciling the feuding parties and promoting community peace and harmony. Through its professional and dynamic personnel, the Gambia Police Force Community Policing Unit has been very effective showing that mediation has numerous advantages such as saving time, cost effectiveness and superior outcomes than resolving a case through prosecution in the courtroom.
Indeed, community policing mediation is compatible with the wishes and aspirations of majority of Gambians as most Gambians would voluntarily subject themselves to the process in order to promote socio cultural cohesion. More so, its activities are always undertaken in partnership with the community leaders and all other stakeholders in the communities.
In view of the above, it begs the question why the authorities have deployed armed Police Intervention Unit personnel in Sibanor and Diabugu to address post-election disputes amongst members of these communities. Suffice to say that, the incidents of post-election confrontation, intimidation and use of extreme language in these locations do not affect the ability of these residents to peacefully co-exist with mutual respect for religious, ethnic and political differences.
In this regard, and In light of our pursuit to making The Gambia the bastion of democracy, there is urgent need for the stakeholders in the maintenance of The Gambia’s national security to reconsider their approach to resolving post-election disputes among members of the same communities by utilizing indigenous mediation processes and Police Community Policing mediation.
The rationale behind this proposition is mainly that, Gambians have just emerged from their Second Republic that has always utilized the Police Intervention Unit to unleash brutality upon individuals who express dissent against government policies, its actions and inactions. As a result, the Police Intervention Unit has become highly unpopular among the populace. And their presence still remains something outside of the comfort zone of many Gambians. Hence, recourse to their services to calm Gambia’s post parliamentary election disputes would be counterproductive.