By Musa Bah
One of the reasons I am in a hurry for the beginning of the Constitution is so that the new Constitution will not only change the out-dated draconian laws, but will also put in place laws that are meant to protect the country from any form of civil strife while at the same time being democratic.
As your government has provided the space for the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, there is a need to put in place measures which will ensure that no one abuses these freedoms. You see, Mr President, human beings are such that if you open a window for them some will seek to make it a door.
Speech is very important. Similarly, it is very powerful. We should not joke with the power of speech. Whoever jokes with speech does not understand its power to do good or cause evil. During the Second World War, a time came when the allied forces, especially the British soldiers, lost hope and were about to be defeated. Sir Winston Churchill delivered a powerful speech which served as a rallying call to galvanize the soldiers. They reorganized themselves with renewed zeal and enthusiasm. The rest is history, as they say.
In April, 1994 a speech by a disk jockey sparked a genocide in Rwanda which killed up to eight hundred (800 000) thousand people. This was simply because of the way he reported a particular incident inciting violence between the two major ethnic groups in that country. These two examples show us how speech can both be useful and dangerous.
It is for this reason that in some advanced countries, even though they value freedom of expression, they still put in place laws which ban hate speech. If a speech is seen to have the potential of causing a war, a strife, or unrest in the country it is considered hate speech. This will not be contrary to freedom of expression because everything has two sides; the good and the bad. A good law will ensure that we make the best use of the good side of freedom of expression and discourage the bad side of it.
Mr President, I have written before that our country is polarized due to obvious reasons. We should endeavour to nurture the peace and security we enjoy and not behave in a way that will plunge our country into chaos. The Gambia is too small for civil unrest. We are too interconnected to embark on a path of revenge.
Considering the forgoing, we must make laws that protect the peace and security of the country. No one – political leader, religious leader or ordinary person – should be allowed to make statements that can result in to chaos or war. We must guard our cherished peace with all our might!
Let us talk about peace and reconciliation rather than revenge and war.
May God bless the Gambia.