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Monday, September 25, 2023

Letters: How useful is partisan politics to Gambia?


Dear editor,

It’s only the African that continues to obediently march to a drumbeat that’s not meant for them. We simply accept the systems the colonialists forced on us and hardly ever bother to question the efficacy of any of these systems. One such system is what we call a “multiparty democracy”, where we have many political parties contesting elections every five years. In the Gambia, we’ve had what we call “multiparty democracy” since 1965 but at no point have, we ever stopped and asked how this so-called multiparty democracy has benefited us as a people.

What are the advantages of this multiparty system to our people considering our unique population size, geography and ethnic makeup? What are the disadvantages of multiparty politics considering the same factors?

Given how our politics have been tribalized, how has partisan politics exacerbated enduring tribal and class chasms in The Gambia? More importantly, how has partisan politics contributed to the advancement of the average Gambian?

When you tell a politically-affiliated Gambian that you don’t believe in partisan politics as it is conducted in The Gambia and that we should consider disbanding political parties or dismantling and reevaluating our way of politics, it comes across as some form of abomination! Many of us have been conditioned to never contemplate alternatives. Some think if you’re against Barrow, you must support one of the parties. Talk about the binary fallacy. For them, the only alternative is party politics and so you hear such simpleminded conclusions that “there are no independents” or that “everyone supports a party” that they’re somehow afraid of revealing. The gutsiness of self-projection!

Africans, especially Gambians, have convinced ourselves that we can only survive on begging. We are comfortably perched atop the very apex of helplessness and so long as we survive on charity as a nation, we are satisfied. And that’s the abiding tragedy: The thought that we must maintain unyielding fidelity to what obtains and never contemplate alternatives or question the foundations our systems are built on are the very reasons we remain mired and wired to mediocrity and all its attendant consequences.

Apparently, many of us have never heard of non-partisan democracies or nonpartisan elections. We think that all elections must be conducted through political parties. Many of us have also never heard of direct democracies where the people vote on issues directly. Because we think there’s only one way, we never consider dismantling any system to examine its efficacy. We never consider hybridizing any of our systems according to our unique needs. There’s a reason our National Visions turn out to be useless slogans.

I’m not saying a nonpartisan system is the answer to our myriad of unending political and ethnic chasms, all I’m saying is that since most of us profess to believe in a God, that God gave us brains to think for ourselves and solve our problems. We shouldn’t continue to rely on the brains of others in the hope that they’ll deliver us to nirvana.

You can’t continue to operate one way and never question if the way you’re operating is benefiting you or not. So I ask the question again, how useful is partisan politics to Gambia? Do we need political parties as they are? If so why? If you think we need to dismantle the political system, then I’m in your camp. If you’re wired and mired to some political party and you don’t want to question anything, please leave me alone and stop asking me to join your party or campaign.

Alagie Saidy Barrow


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