For the past four days, nothing has been more discussed than the reported tribal remarks by tourism minister Hamat Bah. Whether his remarks were taken out of context, like he suggested later, is hardly any relevant, anymore. What is relevant, in our opinion, is that the remarks have reignited the hot topic of tribalism; the actual elephant in the room.
Before Hamat’s comments, UDP deputy leader Aji Yam Secka was also in the spotlight in March this year when she too similarly urged Mandinkas to back party leader Ousainu Darboe.
She, understandably and expectedly, received some bashing especially on social media as many thought urging a specific tribe to back their tribesman candidate is inappropriate and could set a bad trend ahead of the much anticipated presidential election.
Before Aji Yam, it was the president himself, Adama Barrow, who claimed in November 2019 he is a Mandinka. This came after protracted arguments on his ethnic origins, with some claiming he is a Fula. The president was criticised from all quarters, and to some extent, this medium that published the story.
Before President Barrow, it was Imam Baba Leigh who, inextricably linked to the Barrow story, said in February 2019 the president is a Fula and that GDC leader Mamma Kandeh should combine efforts with him since he believes both are Fulas and shouldn’t be up in arms with each other. He, too, was lambasted for the comments and told to concentrate on religious matters, instead of stocking the flames of tribal sentiments.
Before the venerable imam, it was Lie Saine. The former APRC lawmaker was on trial for releasing an audio in September 2018 which contained insults directed at Mandinkas.
We can go on and on, clearly chronicling repetitive incidents of tribal remarks that somewhat, even though to a lesser magnitude, sparked anger among Gambians. From these examples, what is crystal clear is that these things are not going anywhere soon. We have to live with them and we have to talk about their negative impact on peaceful co-existence among ethnic groups in The Gambia.
However, what we are not sadly spending our energy on is the unjustifiable profiling of Fulas. Almost every Fula or anyone that resembles one, has had an encounter with immigration officers. Why is this happening? How can the second biggest ethnic group in the country be constantly profiled and for this long without any solution? This must stop! All Gambians are equal. No ethnic group is more important than the other and for us to continue gloating about our One Gambia, One Tribe, One People slogan, we must speak the truth and ensure that everyone, regardless of your ethnic extraction, is protected and respected. That is the TRUTH and the TRUTH must be spoken! Profiling Fulas has been an ugly trait in The Gambia and it has to end!