By Omar Bah
At least four political parties and a host of other Gambians have condemned “tribal comments” made by Tourism Minister Hamat Bah.
While addressing supporters of President Adama Barrow during a political meeting at State House on Saturday, Minister Bah warned Gambians against voting for the ‘rats’, insisting it would spell the suffering of Gambian Fulas.
“The rats are moving. Be alert and make sure you do not let them pass through any door or window. But do not insult anyone and do not wrong anyone. Be law abiding but we will do what is expected of us. We have heard what you have complained about the issue of ID cards. There is something we know about it but anything we’re addressing we would do it according to the law. Where have you seen someone get an ID Card in 30 years and he comes and you tell him ‘you’re not going to get an ID Card,” Mr Bah told the gathering.
He continued: “But there’s something happening in this country. It is we the Fulas that are suffering the most. If you go to look for an ID Card and you’re light in complexion, they would say ‘you’re a Guinean, you don’t live here or you’re a Senegalese’. They would not do that to a Mandinka from Kolda, a Mandinka from Guinea Bissau or a Serahuleh from Mali or a Wolof from Senegal. It’s just we the Fulas that they pick out and make us suffer over ID card. And President Barrow, we are part of this country. We have a right in this country, we belong to it and we would stand and make sure that it doesn’t happen in this country. Even when they check vehicles for ID Cards and they find someone light skinned, they would say you’re a foreigner. It should end and you know what would make it end? Give your votes to Adama Barrow to become president. But these rats that are moving about, if you give your votes to them, you will suffer and all of us will suffer.”
When the video of the meeting went around, Mr Bah was widely condemned for making ‘tribal comments’ and referring to his political opponents as rats. Many others said it is inappropriate for a state minister to profile ethnic groups at a political meeting. Though there were other views suggesting that Mr Bah did not single out any particular tribe and was merely highlighting the reality of what Fulas face in The Gambia, many respected Gambians argued he should not have stooped this low as a cabinet minister. The Standard tried repeatedly to talk to Mr Bah on the allegation but his phone could not be reached.
Dr Ismaila Ceesay, a founding member of the Citizens’ Alliance political party, said Hamat Bah’s tribal and demeaning statement is despicable and disgraceful.
“Politicians of his ilk work to undermine and destroy the peaceful and socially cohesive nature of The Gambia. Gambians will not allow a few selfish and divisive individuals to disrupt the peaceful coexistence that defines us as a nation. We urge President Barrow to condemn the shameful and potentially destructive statement of Hamat Bah. Equally, we strongly condemn all forms of discrimination and ethnic profiling, and we call for the equal treatment of all Gambians regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief,” Ceesay said.
The United Democratic Party spokesperson, Almamy Taal said his party, apart from condemning Hamat’s comments, would demand the Minister of Information, State House Press Secretary and President Barrow to reveal government’s position on Bah’s continued attack on tribes. “Bah is known to be a complete tribalist. He is so bigoted and it is a disgrace that he is in government saying all these things. He has done nothing for this country other than trying to divide people – he is a tribalist to the core. He has no ideas – he has no respect for anybody. He should come out and retract this nonsense.
“This is what brought genocide to Rwanda. Calling out people’s names is so disgraceful. It is just not Gambian and it is coming from the most empty-headed people in this government. But 2021 is just around the corner, this kind of nonsense would be taken out of Gambia,” he said.
The deputy spokesperson of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, Dodou Jah said Hamat’s comments were uncalled for and should be condemned.
“We should be sending messages of peace, tolerance and inconclusiveness but not tribal messages that would further divide us. Tribal politics and politics of attacking should be the politics of the past.
No tribe has superiority over another tribe. Gambia belongs to all of us. Citizenship doesn’t come by tribe,” Jah said.
The Gambia Democratic Congress spokesperson, Ahmadou Kah said: “It was really a shock. Lowest of all rhetoric that can be heard from a politician. It is absolutely a hate speech and the GDC condemn it in the strongest term. It is unfortunate that it was all unfolding at the State House and the president was there and didn’t do anything about it.
“Gambians should appreciate each other. We demand that the police invite Hamat Bah for questioning just like they did with others who are accused of hate speech.”