‘Ethnic cleavages/ tensions as an inhibiting factor for democracy and national development in a state: The Gambia oddity in the second republic, 1997 – 2016’

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essay,Being a public lecture delivered at the symposium organized by the school of arts and sciences, university of The Gambia, Brikama on the 17th February, 2017 on the occasion of the 52nd independence anniversary of the republic of the Gambia and the celebration of president Adama barrow’s inauguration as the third executive president of the republic of the Gambia, 18th February, 2017. 3. Expectations of the nation and strategies of the government in the new era under the Barrow-led coalition-a non-killing approach Thus, the current administration is advised to toe the path of development and unity by harnessing ethnicity as a non-killing factor only for development-oriented goals and realization of deepened democracy, where every Gambian is free to exercise and defend his rights without fear or reproach. By doing this, The Gambia has and stands the chance of being a model for a world’s view where other nations take a cue. It is capable of becoming a hub for world’s destinations, most especially, as a tourist nation and particularly, for what is known for as a peaceful nation. Not only that, The Gambia would become a democracy that out beats that of America and United Kingdom the whole world copies for now. This will attract stupendous foreign investment growths and local industrial base, thereby, making the small nation becoming a new Africa’s Singapore. The policy thrust will be able to carry every Gambian along in the race of national development where they think Gambians only. The practice will eschew ethnic chauvinism both in public and private lives that always creates atmospheres of hatred, distrust, suspicion and unhealthy competitions among one-time united formidable people in the pre-colonial times. The policy will help resources to boom and to be judiciously utilized while shunning corruption, waste and ineptitude in governance. Indeed, ethnically conceived and nurtured policies in the state will pave ways to patriotism and partnership in progress. Human capital development will thrive leading to technological advancement and capacity utilization (Omotosho, F. 2014). It is not sad news to hear that Gambia is number 156th poorest country in the world, going by recent World Bank’s statistical data, 2015. This suggests that, out of every five Gambians, almost 4 is poor as he lives in abject poverty of below one dollar per day and where only one individual successfully turned himself to the only rich, no challenger, the only who knows, no challenger, the only corrupt, democracy is not in that. Gambians became slaves on their own soils and right in their own eyes, as was the case in the 15th, 16th centuries’ Atlantic slavery, which unleashed on us the seemingly invincible poverty of the mind we live with till today and till only God knows. None was bold enough to cry out as they queued to work for free on farms meant for only one man, sing and clap for him, celebrate him and his family, worship him as a god. If you are not with him, your life is in danger; your property is a waste. You can be made king today only if you are with him, the moment is discovered you are shifting allegiance, you are gone. All of these plus other jungle, obnoxious and unthinkable justice were experienced in the state by the Yahya jammeh ruthless state agents, the NIA, The Special Squad in the State House, among others by the people. Under this yoke, Gambia can never develop, and neither will its people also ever experience any positive change in their living conditions. Today it has become a past, Gambians have chosen a new path through endurance inherently overdue and through the good people of the world that were behind the Gambians and above all through God the merciful, the omnipotent. Yahya Jammeh, who after he fraudulently won the 2011 presidential election claimed he was going to rule Gambia for a billion years because Allah was the one who voted him into power and someone who claimed would die for his country did not only attempt to ravage the country in ruins and tatters, but, while leaving the office disgraced, left an apparently empty state coffers for the new coalition Government of Adama barrow, due to wasteful spending, ethnic abuse and public indiscipline, with a debt portfolio of 107.6 percent as at 2015 of the country’s GDP, leaving his nation the third most indebted sub-Saharan after Eritrea and cape Verde according to data from World Bank and IMF. Because of Jammeh’s policy thrust of iron fist and ethnocentrism, the youths in the Gambia became strangers outside and baby loners on the high seas for a life and death journey in search of greener pastures and for a safe haven. Unemployment grew at over 40 percent rate, the civil service decayed and virtually all public institutions, including our university of the Gambia, were either politicized and/or ethnicized for personality- building interest against institution-building. This was the state of things until power changed hands through the ballot, when Gambia for the first time experienced transfer of power democratically on the January 19, 2017 aftermath of Jammeh APRC’s defeat and crumble in the December, 2016 presidential election. 1. Conclusion Every society on the global continuum is proven with the presence of ethnic relationships in one form or another. God who designed mankind in this way and how nature wishes it cannot be queried and neither can man be blamed for what he has no power of control. Notwithstanding, the same God who made man in this way knew this would not go or exist without its own shortcomings or predicaments, has given man the ability of control over his environments and everything there in. This presupposes that man commands authority over other creatures and things including ethnicity. Hence, it is now for man to utilize ethnicity for positive purposes and development. Those societies or parts of the world, like the West and America that have been able to discover this problem and the benefit of harnessing ethnicity for the good of nature in favor of man by their use of common reason and empiricism are the societies that have been able to live above the evils and dangers of ethnic differences in building their nations and by extension building the international society, leading while others follow and dictating while others take. Therefore, for African nations and particularly The Gambia to exist without or with less or insignificant ethnic conflicts that inhibit their development plans and agenda, they must be ready to recognize the dangers of ethnic conflicts and tensions living with them and how to eschew them for cooperation and unity. If development and harmony must be realized, it then suffices that the political leaders must refrain completely from harvesting ethnicity for their political gains. They, who hold the guns of the power and the baton of leadership must realize that the earlier they harness ethnicity as a non-killing tool the better the society is peaceful and united for them to govern and the better their societies have voices on global decision-making and have good shares of the distributions of the socio-economic goods that abound in the world. The simple reason why the West and America are leading the world and dictating for others today is just because of their use of common sense to do things rightly and for their national interests. That was why they had the liberty to come to colonize us, and ruled us for many centuries, discovered our weaknesses, weakened our strengths and caused disunity and hatred among us, while releasing the baton after long years of bitter struggle against their lordships for political independence, the Europeans did all this for the love they had for themselves and their countries in furtherance of developments at home so as to reduce unnecessary tensions that can truncate their development agenda and promotion of love and understanding. Africans and by extension the Gambians should take a cue of this and stop encouraging ethnicization of their politics and religionisation of their unity as a nation, without which, no development, no unity, hence, backwardness and doom. In The Gambia, a new era is done, a new Gambia is born, Gambians have decided, they have regained their lost freedom; the world has acknowledged and accepted, God has honored, and genuine development and democracy is on the move. Gambians have heaved the sigh of great burden an unwholesome regime hived on them since 1994, with Adama Barrow as President, a man from a humble background, now steering Gambia’s affairs for reconstruction, invigorating and intensifying efforts of plethora political, economic and social reforms, since assumption of office a month ago, reversing major ruthless laws and policies that had cowed seemingly soft-natured people that believe leadership is divine and must not be rebelled against and laws which must not be disrespected for the good of their nation and benefit of mankind. Congratulations to Gambians, kudos to freedom fighters and applause for the intelligentsias. Victory for democracy!!! Long live The Republic of The Gambia. The End….. Dr. Felix Oyejide Omotosho is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of The Gambia, Brikama, The Gambia, West Africa.]]>