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City of Banjul
Saturday, September 26, 2020

Let us do ballots, not bullets

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A Sarahule man would not mind to give away his early morning porridge to a Baddibunka, so would a man from Nuimi do for a stranger from Jarra. Besides, while young, a Gambian is tutored to nurture a sense of good neighbourliness. It is quite familiar for a Mandinka child to be brought up in an Aku household. Furthermore, Muslims not only readily join their Gambian Christians brothers and sisters in their celebrations, but also do marry  them, thereby creating a bond between people of different faiths.

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These cherished virtues of serving as one another’s keeper, rooted in the family, community, social, and religious institutions, are also reflected in the institution of state. The state has times without number gone out of its way to support religious causes even when the constitution dictates the principle of secularity. Peace is therefore the reason Gambia continues to tick despite the many odds.

 

Therefore, the attack on Tuesday by foreign-based Gambians on State House, disturbing the peace, once more, in their bid to topple the government of The Gambia, is regrettable in its absolute sense. Even more regrettable is the loss of lives. It should concern every reasonable person to see peaceful and easy-going people of The Gambia resorting to settling their differences with the government through violent means. The government of The Gambia has been elected into office by the sovereign will of the people of The Gambia. Any decision to remove the government from power should follow similar democratic processes.

 

The Gambia has come a long way, from 1996, in its march towards democracy. Decrees have given way for a constitution agreed upon by the Gambian populace. The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary and supremacy of the National Assembly. It established democratic institutions such as the Office of the Ombudsman and National Council for Civic Education, while providing an entrenched guarantee for the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights. The Independent Electoral Commission has been established, responsible for the conduct of free and fair elections. Indeed, four general elections have since been held with results, which have been rated quite favourably despite some concerns.

 

It is heartening to note the government’s  repeated expression of commitment to strengthen the independence of the judiciary as well as greater role being played by the National Assembly in its oversight functions .There has been a proliferation of media houses in the country and we hope the government will do more to enhance space for healthy debate on issues that affect the nation .The critics of the government accuse it of excesses by way of disregard for due process and human rights abuse.

 

Yet, these excesses of the state cannot be justification for the kind of bloody events witnessed on Tuesday. Gambians should learn to debate without diatribe, discuss national issues without tribal sentiments and engage in politics of no other means but ballots. Moreover, Gambians should be ready to engage the government to improve the democratic environment. The government, too, should be open to such positive proposals for political reforms from national, bilateral and multilateral institutions.

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