On Election Day, supporters of the United Democratic Party (UDP), learning that they emerged victorious, winning seven of the eight seats contested, went out to celebrate their landslide. At Talinding, where there has always been rivalry between the United Democratic Party and the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), the two groups of party supporters clashed and there were some disturbances. It is said that some people sustained injuries. The police had to come and fire several shots of teargas into the crowds with a view to dispersing them.
Both parties claim that it was the other one that started throwing stones. The truth can only be on one side; and only an independent and thorough investigation by a competent authority can determine that. Thus, it is important that the government is seen to do the right thing and investigate. Once this is done, blame will then be assigned to wherever it belongs. If need be, prosecution should follow.
As the saying goes, peace is not the absence of violence; rather, peace is the presence of justice. The government of the Gambia must therefore be seen to be doing justice to all regardless of political or religious leanings. If this is not done, there is a tendency that some people’s proclivities may be pushed towards taking the law into their own hands.
As I have repeatedly said, there is still a long way to go as far as political awareness is concerned. Perhaps twenty-two years of totalitarian rule has numbed our political senses that many, if not most, of us have no idea what democracy is. When therefore they manifest anything about democracy, people are bound to overdo things.
What we should however remember is that the development and progress we are yearning for can only come if there is peace and tranquility in the nation. It is only in peace that citizens will have the chance to work for the wellbeing of the country. Thus, we should do whatever is necessary to ensure that our peace is protected at all times. This is how we will progress.
Towards this end, the Government, the Independent Electoral Commission, the Political Parties and Civil Society all have roles to play to ensure that peace is maintained. The party leaders must lead by example by speaking out against any supporter or supporters who try to incite violence in the name of democracy. If the leadership of a given party remains silent while their followers do something wrong, they will all be culpable if violence ensues.
The government, through the National Council for Civic Education, must work hard to educate and enlighten the citizens of the nation on what democracy is. The civic education needed requires that the work never stops. They should continuously talk to the people even after elections.
The scuffle at Talinding should have warranted the party leaders issue statements to urge their supporters to maintain the peace and calm the country is known for. This is not the first time that APRC and UDP are clashing. Thus, the Government should take proactive measures to ensure that the problem is solved once and for all by investigating incidents like this and recommending ways to keep the peace.