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43% of Gambians say government treats their ethnic group unfairly – Afrobarometer

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By Omar Bah

More than four in 10 Gambians (43%) say the government treats their ethnic group unfairly, including 18% who say this happens often or always, the latest Afrobarometer survey revealed.

The proportion of citizens who say the government “never” discriminates against their ethnic group has dropped from 71% to 53% since 2018.

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The report stated that during his two-decade rule, Yahya Jammeh adopted divide-and-rule tactics, such as declaring The Gambia an Islamic state in 2015 and attacking the Mandinka, the majority ethnic group in the country.

However, despite Jammeh’s electoral defeat in 2016, the report stated that his legacy continues to affect the social fabric of The Gambia, which has historically been known for its tolerance and harmonious coexistence.

The Afrobarometer survey showed that for the overwhelming majority of Gambians, national identity is either stronger than ethnic identity or equally strong.

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“While still a minority, the share of citizens who say the government treats their ethnic group unfairly has increased significantly in recent years, and most Gambians think the government discriminates against people based on their economic status,” it revealed.

According to the report, nine out of 10 Gambians (92%) say their national identity is at least as strong as their ethnic identity; very few say they feel “more ethnic than Gambian” (4%) or “only ethnic” (3%).

“Three-quarters (75%) of Gambians say the government at least “sometimes” treats people unfairly based on their economic status. Overwhelming majorities of Gambians express tolerant attitudes towards people of different ethnicities (95%), different political affiliations (90%), different nationalities (83%), and different religions (76%). But fewer than one in 10 (7%) are tolerant towards people in same-sex relationships,” it added.

The report added that more than three-fourths of Gambians say they trust their relatives (82%) and neighbours (78%) “somewhat” or “a lot,” and far fewer express trust in people from other religious backgrounds (56%).

According to the report, efforts to address past injustices and promote reconciliation through the implementation of the TRRC report “offer hope for healing and inclusivity, but it remains crucial to monitor and address underlying socio-economic issues to ensure a more tolerant and cohesive society in the future”.

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