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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Letters to the Editor

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On 9 December 2016

Dear editor,
Gambians are generally one of the most peaceful, decent and tolerant people to ever grace this Earth. We have gone through a very tumultuous era in our history, yet we persevered with grace and patience. Our collective experience as a people through the turbulent times stimulated our determination and resolves to end the misery in a way unique to our national brand/identity – peace!

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Gambians are not violent people and even when violence was imposed on us in the form of murder, torture, imprisonment, etc, we met the moment not with insurgency, bombs and grenades but with the might of courage and wisdom. We fought and brought down dictatorship and tyranny not with civil disobedience and mass uprising but with power of our marbles. In this process, we have not only solidified our national brand, we became an icon of global democracy. Gambia – a small country with meagre resources and a population of less than 2 millions – has triumphed where many bigger and wealthier nations have failed irreparably. We should take pride in this achievement wherever we are!

Differences in political philosophy or ideology are essential ingredients in strengthening democratic structures. If all of us see things through the same prism and have the same perspective without robust dissenting or critiquing minds to put us in check, our path to a functioning pluralistic society may be complicated.
Civility demands that we argue, debate and disagree on substance without resorting to personal attacks.

What makes you think disagreeing with your political stance makes me this horrible person? Can I not be a decent human being with values and integrity and oppose your policies? How is it the fault of my Mother or Father to have sharply contrasting views on how our country should be run or which direction it should follow?
We just need to stop going rogue and negative in our discussions or creating mistrust among ourselves. Our intentions – good or otherwise – aren’t scribed on our foreheads. They are manifested in our actions. Yes, we can be cautious without being grossly predisposed with mistrust.

I also hear some people giving open “advice” to our incoming administration by telling them to be careful with “bad” people, but how do you know who is bad absent availing them the opportunity to do something? Are they suggesting some sort of test as prerequisites to determine who should play meaningful role in the development of our country? Where do we draw the reference point?

We have just defeated a system that was so paranoid and fearful of its citizens that colleagues in the same office working on the same project could be assigned to spy on each other. This led to escalation of mistrust and prejudice with so many ugly outcomes.

Gambia is still a nation of peaceful citizens but with increasing mistrust and deficiency in tolerance!
Thus, let us nurture and embrace a New Gambia that is the very opposite of the past 22 years – a tolerant Gambia that is home to all of us and allow justice to take its course on people who betray public trust!
Zakaria Kemo Konteh
Queens, USA

Until we start thinking about the unthinkable
Dear editor,
I watched this documentary on Al-Jazeera last night and the Trump order of no USA support to projects and programmes which perform or even provide advice on safe abortion. Many projects and programmes are sure to suffer or close down and many women and young ladies to suffer as a consequence.

Shouldn’t safe abortion be a legal right for a woman? Should safe abortion not be a woman’s choice? Should a woman be forced to carry a pregnancy which she doesn’t want to keep? Isn’t there a link between maternal morbidity and unsafe pregnancy? In many parts of Africa, including the Gambia, there are laws which criminalise abortion or seriously restrict the right to safe abortion. Isn’t such restriction a deliberate politicisation of women’s body?

Or it is about pro-life? The right to life regardless? The same argument we advance against the death penalty? Are our anti-abortion stance more influenced by our religion than our love for women?
S.30 (1) of our Women’s Act 2010 recognises the right of a woman to “medical abortion, where the continued pregnancy endangers the life of the mother or the life of the foetus”, and the Government shall bear the cost of the medical services where the woman cannot afford the expenses. S.31 recognises women’s right to health, including right to contraceptive.

But what if the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest and the girl or woman does not want to keep that pregnancy? Are these two conditions covered under S.30(1)?
Our Criminal Code prohibits child destruction (S. 198) and pregnancy for a period of 28 weeks or more is prima facie proof that a woman is pregnant of a child capable of being born alive.

I am pro-life but will support any law or initiative which gives women the legal right to safe abortion without any conditionality as we have in our Women’s Act 2005. It is not just about choice but empowerment of women to have total agency of their bodies. It helps to prevent unsafe abortions, conducted by back street and quack doctors, which increases morbidity among women. We save a life.
Come to think of it, right to safe abortion has nothing to do with promotion of promiscuity and is not a driver. It is a right which guarantees health and well-being of a woman. It guarantees choice and agency.
Njundu Drammeh
CPA

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