By Musa VAL Banja
The recent past few days have witnessed an uproar from a section of Gambians protesting the introduction of a motion in the British House of Commons to force the Government of The Gambia to implement fully the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRCC).
Inevitably, the ruling party, the National People’s Party issued an official statement criticizing the move. In his statement, the deputy party spokesperson Mr. Seedy Njie termed the support of the motion by seven (7) members of parliament “suspect” as the TRRC had not completed its task and the report was not ready. He accused the MPs of being used by unnamed persons as tools for the achievement of some goals that were against the interests of the Gambia. Njie insisted that the The Gambia is a sovereign state that no country including the UK should interfere in its internal affairs. The deputy spokesperson then went on enumerate the many strides that The Gambia under Barrow had made towards recognition and enforcement of human rights.
Among the achievements that Njie named were freedom of expression and the media, restraint by the police in dealing with citizens, the fight against corruption, free, fair and transparent elections and the prohibition of FGM and child marriages. Despite the flowery language that Mr. Njie used, his statement was inevitably biased and expected due to his position, it was personal, it was exaggerated, it lacked facts and it was founded on outright lies.
To begin with, the statement and emotions of Njie were expected because of his position. Njie (2021) is the deputy spokesperson of the National People’s Party, the ruling party of The Gambia. An attack on President Adama Barrow is an attack on the ruling party. The party therefore naturally comes out to defend the president. A spokesperson speaks for the legal personality of the party or any other organization for which he or she works. According to Marsen (2019), a spokesperson rarely expresses his opinion; instead, he expresses the opinion of the organization. While he might have his own opinion, he can only express it if it resonates with the position of the majority of the organization’s leadership. In other words, Seedy Njie is to the National Peoples Party what a dog is to its master. The dog is under obligation and conditioning to attack any target the master orders it to attack. Mr. Njie can only and must say what the party what him to say. In view of the pitiable position of a spokesperson, one must therefore judge Seedy Njie a little less harshly. The words are the selection of a board of mandarins at the party headquartes intended to take a specific position the mandarins perceived to be desirable for the correct positioning of the party before the Gambian public and the world. They therefore mean nothing beyond public relations.
In addition, Njie’s rebuke of the seven UK MPs was too personal to merit much attention. The trick of tainting the name or personality of an adversary remains one of the oldest responses of political dimwits (Barnes et al., 2018). The personal unsavory descriptions of the adversary are intended to divert the readers attention to the few limitations of the adversary away from the issue at hand. In the typical ad hominem fallacy, Njie (2021) attacked the persons of the seven MPs and particularly Jeremy Corbyn instead of responding to the issues that they had raised. He claimed that Jeremy Corbyn habitually acts without wise counsel and that he is inept in the conduct of his duties. Regarding the whole group of the seven MPs, Njie repeatedly called them “idle.” The reference of the MPs as idle is an obvious attempt to creates the impression that the MPs do not have the capacity to make sound judgments of issues hence their opinion should be ignored. He also describes the MPs as having acted “unwisely”, a jab at their level of intellect. Njie’s statement is a direct attack on the persons of the seven MPs that lacks any social decorum especially in official communication. His statement would have attracted more serious considerations if he had avoided any personal attacks on the MPs.
The statement by Seedy Njie also had too many exaggerations on the achievements of the National People’s Party since the election of Adama Barrow. Seedy Njie claimed that the government of Adama Barrow had made many strides that provided freedom of expression and media. He stated that journalists are now free to write whatever they want and that none has disappeared unlike during the Jammeh regime. It is true that the government of Barrow has given some freedom to the media and for expression.
Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is different. Reporters Without Borders (2018) reported that police harassment of journalists was still a common thing in the Gambia. Njie also claimed that the Gambia had made many improvements its electoral law and it had involved all players in the management of the process.
According to the Soumare (2021), the truth is that the Adama Barrow government has made legal changes to statutes that only favor Adama who is running for office in December 2021. Statutes like the removal of the age limit and the lowering of deposits only serve to enable Barrow stay in power for many terms and decades. Besides, Nie claimed that the Gambia had illegalized FGM and child marriages in the country. Unfortunately, Jeyton and Jahateh (2018) asserted that the two practices had grown since 2018. The government therefore might have made laws against the practice but it ignores it; there have been no convictions since Barrow ascended to power yet the practice is widespread across the country. Seedy Njie’s claims of achievements must thus be taken with extreme caution.
Last, the statement of Njie lacked many facts and had its foundations on outright lies. First, Mr. Njie emphasized the sovereignty of the Gambia over most of his statement.
Theoretically, the Gambia is indeed a sovereign country. In reality however, the Gambia is depended on international lending institutions and development partners in managing most of its projects.
When Covid-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, the Gambia received three financial assistance packages from the IMF totaling USD97.2 million (IMF, 2021). It also received undisclosed amounts from the World Bank (2021). For a country that prides itself on sovereignty, the inability to tackle a pandemic that had little impact on it is questionable. The Gambia’s sovererignty is therefore only limited to issues that touch on the presidency of Adama Barrow. Mr. Njie also claimed sensationally that the seven UK MPs were under the payroll of persons with vested interests in the Gambia. He could not however substantiate his claims at all. The claims are thus pure lies.
In conclusion, the National People’s Party deputy spokesperson Mr. Seedy Njie made the statement rebuking the UK MPs as the public relations officer of the party. Any claims therein must thus be considered as public relations stunts rather than any factual counter-claims. In addition, the personal nature of the statement reduces its credibility. The claims of sovereignty are one-sided and thus they do not define the reality of the Gambia in relation to other nations of the world.