We, as a people, have gone through something that could be said to be unique in every respect. We perceive ourselves as having been repressed, persecuted, tortured, marginalised, divided into factions – tribal, regional, religious and so on and so forth. We saw a state which was bent on controlling and imprisoning us; bent on making us subdue and submit to its whims and caprices.
We took it for long and then decided to stand our ground and fight back (for lack of a better word) and redeem ourselves, reclaim our self-respect and sovereignty. We came together and campaigned hard and went to the polls with the sole purpose of voting for a change of government. We succeeded at last but only to be plunged back into the abyss by the former president’s refusal to accept the defeat. A lot of push and pull ensued which further widened the lines of division and acrimony.
Ultimately, we had to solicit the help of the international community to come and render support which finally enabled us swear-in our new president; the former president having been exiled. We breathed a sigh of relief and just wanted to pick up the pieces and continue from where we stopped. The gigantic miscalculation we made was thinking that it was a case of ‘us against him’, but it was not. The country is polarised and we need a serious dialogue to resolve this matter.
We all thought that it was our common enemy, Yahya Jammeh who created the entire problem and that once he was out we would go back to where we were and just move on. This was a mistake as Yahya Jammeh was just one man. He could not have controlled the whole machinery of state on his own. He had helpers and accomplices. He had allies and supporters. He had protégés and patrons. There were those who almost depended on him entirely. Removing him at a go was not going to cut it. The leftovers were bound to try a little comeback or some shake up at least.
The other mistake we made as a nation was to ignore (or shall I say, overlook) the anger of the people who were supposedly wronged during the previous regime. Some claim to have lost loved ones, others claim to have been wrongly imprisoned and some had their properties (mostly landed properties) confiscated by state agents. All these are here in the country, fuming, enraged, so to speak.
Furthermore, the economic situation is not helping. Youth unemployment is at an all-time seventy percent. Hundreds of young people have been returned to the country from Libya and some other countries. They are jobless and hopeless. They have been returned here on the promise that they will be given something to do and earn a living. They came home to an economic desert, as it were.
Having all these issues at one time and then hoping that it will be rosy and all; is the biggest joke. We must think of ways to remove the tension and harmonise our nation again. The APRC supporters are angry after their president was defenestrated; the UDP supporters saw that president as having insulted and belittled them, the victims of murder, torture, disappearance and their families are angry and waiting. Talk about a ticking time bomb!
We must find ways and means of dealing with all these as soon as possible. This is a serious issue which needs urgent attention. It needs critical thinking and detached planning to reconcile these people. We must manage the anger and frustrations for the sake of our future generations. This does not call for obstinacy or any holier-than-thou attitude. We must each be ready to give up something, sacrifice something for the reunification of our country. Development will not come unless we unite and join hands in sincere effort to rebuild our country. We must put away all tribal and party sentiments and work sincerely on our ability to forgive and move on.
The APRC, the UDP, GDC, PDOIS, the victims, and all other aggrieved individuals and entities must come together. They must come prepared to sacrifice something for something bigger. No false pride is needed. No desire for vengeance on anyone’s part will do us any good. The fact that there are many angry, frustrated unemployed youth in our country is a serious cause for concern. If we do not address this now, it might come to a head in which case it may be too late.
What has happened in Busumbala and environs should be a wakeup call for urgent action. In the name of a better Gambia, let us come together and seek solutions for these problems before they get out of hand. Let us call for a National Reconciliation Conference. Every Gambian should be invited to this dialogue forum so we trash out all differences and set a course for the healing of our nation.
O my compatriots! Let us learn from the mistakes of other nations and seek to prevent any escalation of the tensions in the country! May God be our helper, protector and guide! For the Gambia Our Homeland!