By Omar Bah
The United Democratic Party has called on the political class to have a roundtable dialogue to address the country’s political, religious and ethnic challenges ahead of the December polls.
“It is necessary for us to sit across the table without bitterness or anger to exchange best ideas to find a resolution to the many challenges of our country. That is what needs to happen,” UDP spokesperson Almamy Taal told The Standard Monday.
The country has of been experiencing a lot of political intolerance, tribal issues and hate speech which many believe could jeopardize the country’s peace and stability.
“It speaks to our own maturity that after 22 years of dictatorship we decided to change our government and after five years of that new government people are becoming needlessly intolerant and some have now become specialists in only throwing abuses on individuals or at communities,” he observed.
Taal said the country can only regain its democratic and champion of peace status when the citizenry recognise the need to engage and discuss issues and policies that bear the general interest.
“Multi-party democracy requires exchange of ideas and vision and once we are able to convince the majority around our vision, I have a conviction that that vision is going to be beneficial to everybody,” he said.
He said what is necessary for that to happen is for “us to agree that Gambia is one people, one nation and one destiny”.
“It is important at all times for us as a people to be tolerant and share our best ideas. Intolerance can only polarise our country. It can only bring tension and division in our society,” he said.
Mr Taal said he has “no doubt that majority of Gambians have this equanimity in their temperament and a tolerant spirit in their DNA to be able to engage in a very responsible manner over where this country should be heading”.
“I think there is no reason for us not to be mature enough to be responsible for our challenges. This is a country that manages to emerge from very difficult moments, so my understanding is that majority of Gambians want a peaceful election and that only Gambians will be eligible to vote in our elections,” he said.
He added: “With all this freedom that comes with the ability to express oneself to be heard or understood, I really think there is no need whatsoever for one to get into a vitriolic argument or to be trading insults”.
“If we disagree on a point of national importance, we should be able to put our points across without being acrimonious. I really think in a multi-party democracy you will have differing voices and also have the opportunity to convince or persuade as many people as possible to have the majority on your side,” he said.
Taal said it is in the nature of democratic republics that now and then “you will have tension and sometimes people misspeaking for whatever reason. But it is also only in a multi-party democracy that demagogy rear their heads.”
He however argued that hate speech must be controlled and the attempts by those who are trying to divide the Gambia into tribes “don’t understand the history of our country”.
“Our country is made up of all the tribes and religions that are inter-marrying and living together over generations. So really this purity test of one tribe or the other is quite frankly very childish. It is such a juvenile approach to developing a republic based on the values of tolerance, inclusiveness and non-discrimination,” Taal stressed.
He said when talking about national issues and the rising tension in the political discussions and in the social spaces, people must be careful that first and foremost they are Gambians before tribe, religion, or anything else.