By Alagie Manneh
The Gambia government has commenced a formal process it hopes will pave the way for resolving the dispute between the Supreme Islamic Council and Rawdatul Majaalis for leadership of Muslims in the country.
Alhaji Dembo Bojang, the religious adviser to the president disclosed this to The Standard over the weekend.
“We have started the process [to broker peace between SIC and Rawda]. Tomorrow, I will work to set out a date and time so that both parties, including the minister [responsible for religious affairs, Musa Drammeh] and myself sit down and discuss a way out,” he said.
Mr Bojang’s statement comes three days after Rawda president, Alhaji Baba Drammeh, made a public call through this newspaper for the government of President Barrow to convene an urgent national conference to resolve the dispute and foster unity among Muslims in the country.
The current SIC leadership has been locked in a leadership dispute with Rawdatul Majaalis since 2017. Rawda which mainly consist of imams and traditionalist propagators of Islam in the country, had accused the former and current executive of the SIC of being “illegitimate and lacking in transparency”. It then went on to set up a parallel council headed by Sheriff Muhammed Nano Hydara in November 2019 and said it does not recognise the government recognised council.
The SIC in turn said it does not recognise Rawda which also calls its own executive the Supreme Islamic Council. The status quo posed a quandary for many Muslims in the country.
Ending the schism
Last Thursday, Rawda’s Drammeh, a veteran diplomat, threw the gauntlet to the government admonishing that the onus is on it to act and bring a quick resolution to the impasse.
“There are lots of plans to end the saga,” Mr Bojang said.
He agreed that the proposal for both sides to meet at a roundtable is the only way to resolve the issue.
“We want it solved amicably. We want them to come to terms so that there will be no disputes,” he said.
He admitted that governmment’s earlier attempts to resolve the issue by speaking to the parties separately, “failed over and again” and said there is a real chance to end the schism this time round. He said the leadership of both the SIC and Rawda should remember that The Gambia belongs to all of us.
“They are human beings and they have a sense of thinking,” Mr Bojang replied when asked why the talks will succeed now.
“They have never come together before. That is why we are interested to know the root causes of the dispute. That’s why we want to bring them together for discussions,” he said.
He advised the Islamic leaders to realise that “if they don’t conduct themselves well, those behind them will not”.
Mr Bojang also rejected the notion that it is the government that has been dithering on the matter and that’s why the issue has been allowed to fester for so long. “It was President Adama Barrow himself who instructed that I call on both parties for a discussion. And the fact is, we have been discussing the issue for quite long,” he stated.