The need to keep every positive dream alive is essential, but the need to keep alive such a dream as equal treatment, peace and harmony, and peaceful co-existence is beyond measure. I have always had a dream that we will all live to witness a day when The Gambia will realize the beauty of peace and reconciliation. That generations to come, will not just show solidarity and affiliation based on ethnic backgrounds but by virtue of one’s potentials. In order to make great impact on such problems as tribalism, there are various stakeholders involved, ranging from the victims of earlier tribal conflicts, the youths who double as the future images of our dear motherland, and of course the government of the day, whose actions influence the shape of our country in one way or the other. A victim of past inter-tribal violence may not be willing to reconcile; the youths may have a certain form of grudge against past tribal enemies and will have that quest for revenge, whilst political institutions may wish to satisfy their quest for power by hiding behind tribal grounds to secure their seats. All these ought to be involved in the drive towards realizing this dream.
A victim of racial violence may be difficult to console. It is not easy to let go of all that hatred gathered at that time, but these victims can be made to understand that the same way only light turns out darkness, love is the only tool capable of putting out hatred. We need to put aside our differences and erase painful memories if we are to realize this dream. Again, being a victim and at the same time seeking revenge is very ironical because with that, you will be no different from the ones that caused tribal conflicts in the first place by acting in the same way they did. We should come on board and heal our wounds through dialogue and communication rather than keeping grudges and creating that distance between tribes of the same nation. We must remember that a true believer is not stabbed at the same place tie, but accepting others for who they are, to strengthen mutual relationships, is noble.
The dream of ending tribalism should be a Gambian dream. As a nation, it is a collective vision and as such we all have a role to play. The youths cannot have zero influence on matters like this and therefore cannot be left out. We are reminded that we can write our own destinies today by ensuring that The Gambia becomes the Gambia we will all be proud to call ours, that is, free from ethnic related disputes. We have what it takes to change the fate of this country by keeping this dream fresh in our minds and hence, give peace a chance. Force and brutality were the major causes of tribal enmity. Therefore, we must invent positive ways of encouraging teamwork rather than individualism. If this dream is to be kept alive, we should be well equipped with every tool that can firmly guard it. Let us stand up for equality and justice even if it is at our own expense. We must defend this dream to the lather, even if it means moving away from our comfort zones. No matter how long it takes, a sacrifice never goes in vain. Going out of our ways for a positive cause only gives us the confidence to be the very change we wish to see.
In addition, political institutions and parties, and even the government, have a more crucial role to play. The Gambia’s inter-tribal conflicts emerged as a result of politics. The government should look into ways of serving justice alongside creating that platform for healing and reconciliation, and desist from seeking power on tribal grounds. The quest for power must not bring enmity and mistrust among the people they seek to or lead. We must find peaceful ways of maintaining power popularity and not create a rift between the masses. The government can also introduce the absolute majority system when it comes to election. This will ensure that any government that comes to power will know that tribalism won’t work because no tribe in the Gambia is yet to reach more than 50% of the population. Therefore, anyone seeking power will ensure the realization of this dream because a single tribe cannot give him victory. Also, members of current governments should maintain cordial relationships with former ones as they are supposed to be role models to their followers. This will no doubt keep this dream alive.
After engaging all the above stakeholders in a form of constructive dialogue, the victims will realize their wounds are better healed this way; the youths will be inspired to give peace a chance, and political institutions will understand that the most effective way to build a better Gambia is to have a collective agenda, through reconciliation and unity. I hope to see this dream written on every face, sung by every mouth and put at the back of every mind; remembered in every action and prayer. With that, we design a promising future for us and generations to come. Long live this dream, long live unity, long live the smiling coast of Africa.
Awa Conteh, School of Information Technology and Communication, University of The Gambia.