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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Letters to the Editor

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How Gambian politics became so ineffective

Dear editor,

Personally, I find the overwhelming political strife something that holds all of us back, not only collectively as a country, but as individuals who simply want to fulfill our dreams, provide for our families and, if we are a fraction as lucky as you who have the privilege to be an “intellectual elitist” or a celebrity figures, member of the Jollof middle class and role models, please leave a legacy for younger generations.

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Those people suffering the ” Elitism and Jollof Middle Class” disease; are those who see political agitation and civil disobedience protest on the street as “hooliganism.”

Folks who do not eat chicken skin because they will get “fat.” Folks whose mobile phones are more expensive than the limit on their health insurance. Folks who are quick to light up Cuban cigars before appreciating the nuances of tobacco smoke from a cigarette. Appearance enthusiasts. The 25-year-old single malt scotch whiskey herd. The lit crowd. Folks who “speak” too much politics on Facebook, Twitter (de facto social media for posh people of “little” words) WhatsApp but refuse to execute their constitutional right – the right to protest, the right to picket. In their “humble” thinking, protest and picketing is for “hooligans.”

As citizens, every one of us has a choice in whether we will play a role in narrowing, or widening, the tremendous political divide clouding this country

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Those whose only posts on Facebook are about “peace,” “destruction of property” and how the political crisis is “affecting investments in the country, tourism and stability,” yet the only investment they have is a monthly salary bogged down by unreasonable income tax, consumption oriented bank loans, advances, mortgages, loans for cars whose fuel is barely affordable, rent paid to landlords in leafy neighborhood around Brusubi and the jet-set “Jumbo Jet” and “Java” lifestyle to create an illusion of success. Miss one paycheck and you are no better than the “hooligan” on the streets of Manjai Kunda.

Folks with little appreciation for context. Posh people who spend more of their time, jumping from one “latest” shopping mall to another, sipping cheap coffee from Cassy’s Café at Kololi and paying heart breaking prices, can only see “hooliganism” in political agitation and right to picket. Unfortunately, the “hooligans,” – from Brikama, Bakau, Serekunda, Kololi to Gunjur in Kombo South – yes, those who do not spend time talking useless business ideas and political theory in Java, are the majority.

Most of the “hooligans” we want to harsh tag, do not even own smart phones! The “hooligans” are the result of unemployment and idleness which have become, inadvertently, national pastimes. The “hooligans” determine how high your fencing at home goes. They determine how many guards you hire. The “hooligans” can collectively determine when, where and how you enjoy the mechanical myths of your turbo charged Range Rover. Today, those “hooligans” have made many posh people miss their flights and brought business to a standstill in the Greater Banjul Area.

Instead of ranting how we should harsh tag “hooligans,” the posh “middle class” should start demanding good governance and respect for human rights. Governance that creates a conducive atmosphere for political stability, political, fighting corruption, youth employment, justice, ethnic cohesion, investments and job creation.

But again, “poshness” induced by intellectual elitism and Jollof’s middle class disease can only allow one to appreciate “CafeTtouba in the most high-tech coffee mug, not the larger environment from whence it is served.

Politics, with all its benefits, detriments and, at times, very necessary, difficult and worthy debate, has a place to go to; nonviolent- protest and picketing, a constitutional guaranteed right. I say this not because our voices should be silenced. Our voices matter. I say this because – as we all – have a place to voice our desire for political change. That place is not limited to social media, with our National Assembly, our local representatives, at the village Banaba and our nation’s leaders.

Our voices should be silenced. our voices matter. We all – have a place to voice our desire for political change. That place is our National Assembly, our local representatives, in the streets, village Banaba’s and our nation’s leaders including civil society groups.

Yet, instead of using our celebrity or middle-class status as a path to have our voices heard in an appropriate way where real change is possible, we choose to declare yourselves ” Elitism and Jollof middle class” for social justice. We elect to exploit our constitutional right – freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association arguably, our right unless we contractually agree otherwise, and – we elect to exploit the very rights to increase the incredible partisan divide in this country when we could just as easily use our voices to help heal the country. The irony is palpable.

For those who truly care not only about our 1.9 million neighbors, but about the entire world, we must continue to learn from, and correct, our mistakes, celebrate our victories, and find a way to effectuate positive – not divisive – change from the unceasing political storm. The Gambia is a great nation in the world with remarkable and unremarkable people. Notice I did not say “perfect” nation.

Alagie Yorro Jallow
New York City

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