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City of Banjul
Saturday, January 16, 2021

Deliver a “national unification message”:

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the Gambia is heading to an unknown destination

Mr. President, it is factual and irrefutable that our people are divided; divided on nothing but ethnic lines. Scholars have explained the factors that continue to impede Africa’s strive toward the building and consolidation of a robust democracy, key among which is ethno-regional conflict. As such, they emphasized the need for the unleashing of ethnic mobilization as a necessary condition for Africa to enjoy a lasting democracy where the rights and liberties of all without discrimination on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or political loyalty will be guaranteed.

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Since you took over the mantle of leadership of this country as the second president of the second republic, you have not at any point addressed our divided people as some of us would wish. No one can deny the fact that we are divided. Politics of ethno-regional sentiment has overshadowed politics of rationality or ideology. Researchers like John A. Wiseman in his research on “Social and Economic Bases of Party Political Support in The Gambia with a Case Study of Serrekunda”; Carlene Eddie in his article “Democracy in The Gambia: Past, Present and Prospects for the Future”; and David Perfect in “Politics and Society in The Gambia Since Independence”, all explained the ethno-regional dynamics of Gambian politics; how ethnic and regional influences have shaped the political landscape of The Gambia since the colonial era.

Recent incidents of violent clashes between supporters of the various parties on the political spectrum, especially the UDP and main opposition APRC are indeed worrying and are sending bad signs for the future of this country. The incidents in the Fonis and Tallinding are clear cases in point. Here is a country with a very infinitesimal number of ethnic groups compare to bigger political nations, but has her people divided on ethnic lines. A quick flashback on post-colonial Africa will remind us the three main tasks for the leaders at the time: the urgent need to unify the divided people by transforming multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-racial identities into a single unitary nation in the already prefabricate states by the colonial powers; restructuring the national economies of the African countries; and provide social welfare to the African masses. Mr. President, I am of the view that The Gambia is currently in the situation of post-independence dilemma faced by Africa in that eon. Jammeh’s era was a miniature of colonialism in the Gambia and December 1 was the attainment of a democratic victory which ushered in a new wave of independence in the form of an end to dictatorship and the rise of democracy and the sovereign will of the people. The task ahead of us is to unite our divided people, restructure our economy which is in total bad shape, and finally ensure the provision of social welfare to our people for our children and generations yet unborn to become heir to a dignified future.

This phenomenon of ethno-regional politics has no doubt been cultured to the worst degree by Jammeh during his reign. What is left for Gambians is to fix this dilemma. Mr. President, it has been your slogan during and even after the campaign and election, that the Gambia is one nation with one people and that we contest elections on the basis of political diversity, but build nations on the basis of national unity which is factual and should serve as the guiding principle of any nation. It is scary but our country is heading to an unknown destination. These ‘minor’ incidents that occur at community levels are indeed the potential threats to our nation-building agenda. These are the problems that can escalate into violent conflict, giving way for ethnic spar. The experiences of ethnic tensions in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 between the Hutus and the Tutsis, the crisis in the world’s newest nation (South Sudan) are lessons for one to learn from, especially from the former’s case. When the disreputable system of apartheid ended in South Africa, Nelson Mandela decided to address the divided South African people to put an end to any potential threat to violent conflict that may jeopardize the future of the country. I am not insinuating that justice should not take its rightful place in the case of Jammeh and his surrogates regarding the crimes meted on Gambians for over two decades. Let justice be done as I belong to that camp, but your numero uno job this day and time as our president should be how best this divided nation of ours can be unified. Your just concluded nation-wide tour could have been specifically used as an opportunity to unify the Gambian people and not to campaign for the ‘Coalition candidates’ who are non-existent. I am therefore of the opinion that the recent concluded tour was not sufficient to unite Gambians if in fact that was the purpose.

Today, the APRC supporters are living in self-denial as they still refuse to accept the fact that Jammeh has lost the December 1 polls and he is no more the president of the Gambia. Mr. President, since you serve as the president of The Gambia and not the president of any particular tribe, region, religion or political party, I urge you to call for a retreat after the parliamentary polls and meet various stakeholders in the political continuum, the political parties (those in the coalition and the oppositions) where the agenda of nation-building will be discussed for all political parties to see one another as partners and not enemies in national development. This has to be continuously held every year. Mr President I call on you to use the national television and deliver a ‘national unification message’ that will sanitize the hearts and minds of all Gambians by uniting us and prepare us better for the mighty task ahead of us. Let this day and time be announced on television and radios all over the country for the whole nation to watch and listen. With this, I am hopeful that at least, many hearts will be won to join the crusade of nation-building.

Mr President, kindly address the nation now!

Yours in the service of the nation

Essa Njie
A sovereign and a concern Gambian citizen

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