Of late, the Gambia Police Force has invited the two leaders of the country’s leading opposition political parties for questioning. They claim that the questioning was not politically motivated. But naturally, such clams will be received with a pinch of salt in some quarters.
This is not good for our nascent democracy at all. Granted, citizens [politicians inclusive] cannot – should not – be allowed to say just anything. There should be a check on hate speech and statements that have the potential of causing violence in the country. There should be a way around this; a way that can prevent people from making hate speeches or inciting violence yet preserve our democratic principles and norms.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is an independent body which conducts elections in the country. This body could be used to serve as arbitrators so that whenever a politician makes a statement which is seen to have the ability of inciting violence, or can be seen as hate speech; they (the IEC) would invite him or her to clarify and explain his statement. If then the statement is found to be malicious and intended to cause violence; or makes unfounded allegation against someone, they will forward the case to the police for further investigation.
On the other hand, the Inter-party Committee could be mandated to carry out such interventions (or arbitrary roles). Should a politician be found wanting, his or her case would be forwarded to the police.
Failing both the above, a political arbitrary body should be constituted to carry out such duties as required by true democratic principles. This will enable us cultivate and nurture a healthy and peaceful political environment. With that, the government will never be seen as clamping down on the opposition parties. At the same time, we will be maintaining the precious peace we have been able to achieve so far.
Talk of killing two birds with one stone!