By Amadou Jadama
Islamic cleric Ba-Kawsu Fofana has urged political leaders in the country to de-escalate tension and urge their followers to shun violence in the run-up to the 4 December presidential election.
Delivering a Friday sermon at the Jarra Kanuma mosque recently, Imam Fofana who has himself been accused of making incendiary statements in the past, urged the leadership of political parties, the electoral commission and relevant civil society organisations to engage in dialogue and ensure a peaceful and free election.
He preached: “Gambians are now heading to the presidential election. Let all the political party leaders and the government including the IEC engage in dialogue among themselves to ensure that there is peaceful election in the country. After all, we all share this one country, and we are one family and belong to the same religion. Our political views may differ, but that should not divide us.
“On the one hand, those in power who are seeking a new mandate as president should ensure that the elections are free and transparent. On the other hand, the opposition leaders should also commit themselves to the same ethos. Even before he fights with unbelievers, Prophet Muhammad first engages his enemies in dialogue. If he does that for a jihad, why can’t Barrow and the opposition leaders do the same for [a mere] election?”
Imam Fofana cautioned that to forestall violence during and after election, current political rhetoric and during the campaign period must be restrained.
He added: “If the election fails it can trigger violence in the country. Let us stop insulting each other’s parents and using abusive languages against each other. Whether one is a supporter of the government or the opposition, make good remarks and speak the truth to the Gambian people and avoid making statements that are misleading.
“The truth is the truth. If you know something about someone who is vying for an elective office, or you have evidence that shows something in their character you should say so, so that they will not betray the country. This does not mean exposing their shortcomings.”
Imam Fofafa said Gambians should be on guard to prevent foreigners from registering to acquire voter’s cards and taking part in elections as that would tantamount to “a total betrayal of the state.”