Throughout this period, I continued to hold obvious respect and admiration for certain people in government and saw them as elder brothers that had been brought into my life for guidance. Until now, as I type this, that respect has not wavered irrespective of the fact that others serve in their stead. It was my relationship with the Head of State and his office that led me to people like Mr Mambury Njie and Ex-Chief of Protocol Mr Alagie Ceesay; both men have been invaluable additions to my life over the years. I must say of all the things that I was grateful for, the fact that I had met some beautiful souls throughout my experience was the most fulfilling. I continue to share respect and admiration for the versions of them that I have come to know and see. I cannot remember who, but someone did once say, ‘who are we to choose our friends’. My impression of Mr Mambury Njie is personal and he will always be an older brother and ‘kotor’ in my life. I prayed for his acquittal and hoped justice would serve in his favor. We’re human after-all and aren’t our prayers reflections of our biases?
My encounter with ‘the struggle’ also began during this period. Friends and people I called Family were often disrespected and lied about by ‘some journalist’ on his online newspaper. It was then I got to know of the man, Nderry Mbai. I was lucky enough to see through his lies early for I had been privileged to know a number of the people (especially women) he so randomly liked to humiliate. I agreed at that point that he needed psychological help and ignored him to the best of my ability.
I also came face-a-face with Gambian hypocrisy during that same period. Some hypocrisy is masked with genuine care and those are the ones we must be well free of. It takes a discerning eye to tell the difference and some of us are born blind. I refused to speak on behalf of those his words oppressed and the many he gave sleepless nights. A friend of mine kept advising over the last two years that I stay away from giving him undeserved attention and recognition but truth is, he has earned it. I give the devil his due by saying even as ill equipped, random and hateful as he was/is, he trumped every other voice of negation out there. Many tried to step into his shoes but this devil held no prisoners! The Nderry is a beast and we helped fuel his fire by giving him undue attention and suddenly he had grown into the biggest and most unobvious animal in our midst. I gave him attention because he earned it. The Nderry is a star! Perhaps he is not educated enough to run a paper. Perhaps he is too raw to say anything of note. Perhaps he has lied too much to be given a journalism award. However, at the task of being an A-hole, he has been the best over the years and no other person beats him. The Nderry is the Caesar without his squire simply because he has killed every chance of anyone squiring for him. There is no child employed to walk with him into the market square reminding him ‘he is just a man’. Fortunately, he seems to have run out of steam, or maybe he is gearing up for something new. Truth be told, he has been replaced. He might not realize it…or maybe he does and is trying to fix it. Truth is, all it would have taken for The Nderry to be taken down was not a strategic essay from yours truly, but the simple, yet smart ‘coup d’état’ that came his way. The devil hasn’t left the building, but his horns have grown shorter.
Coming back to The Gambia and taking my place in the development of our country, I stuck to my previous decision of ignoring the politics but giving all of my energy to the development of projects and plans that would be at least a tiny contribution to our tiny nation. Six years on, I am on course to achieve those dreams. Many have criticised my reluctance to run commentaries on local politics and I sometimes wonder what’s so special about me that I have to be the one to do it. You know, I grow a big head and you wonder why! It takes ingenious perception to rise above the politics. Where I am no genius, I must say I have risen above it. If I didn’t rise above the politics where do you think my bias would lie? I believe you can answer that yourself.
The Gambia is a difficult place to innovate ideas of any sort but in three years we had created something I could be proud of. The ‘we’ in this equation is a different one. I had discovered a like-minded brother or he had discovered me. Either way, together we found the most amazing people around us and started what would be the fuel for a wildfire of Gambian Internet activity that has brought us to this point today. Everything else started from that point and grew from it.
Balafong has been the BIGGEST contributor to uniting Gambians online than any other idea. The impact might not be in the numbers but we showed the internet world of Gambians that it was possible and Gambian internet activity blew up. Balafong online continues to be immensely relevant and even where my involvement with it has been extremely minimal, I am proud of the many accomplishments that continue to be achieved. I refuse to list the many things the group has done over the years for this is not ‘gloat-work’; and believe me that was only the beginning, for many things have been grown from it. It was also the tool brought me within proximity of former Secretary General Momodou Sabally, another acquaintance I built with time.
A lot has been said over the course of one year on a meeting I had with the former Secretary General in the presence of my parents and I have remained tight-lipped on the issue for personal reasons. During those few weeks a lot ran through my mind but none of it was that of disrespect. I felt terrible that I had put my parents in a position that would warrant their presence at a meeting but save for a hiccup here and there, it was a meeting with an air of respect and we left the meeting more confused than insulted or disrespected. It takes a lot for me and those I care about to receive disrespect from other people. It might be the way I carry myself or maybe it’s just the way I stare into your eyes when we talk but the few times I have been disrespected, I must say I was taken unawares. Mr Sabally was a brother of a brother and therefore my brother also. Things have been said, deeds have been done, mistakes have been made, mostly in judgment been ‘strip-searched’ as was suggested by a ‘fake profile’ and harassed by my brother’s brother, this essay would have told a different story.
Months and a number of correspondences later with our nation’s leader or whoever communicated on his behalf, I was humbled to see that this was the same man I had met years ago when I was a young man in uniform and he was The President in his kaftan. The correspondences started from vague to direct but always with a tone of understanding and respect. I showed appreciation for his poise and tact and he gave me a reading eye and his valuable time. I had no intentions of leaving the country. I had done nothing to warrant that and this country is my home. For some, the quest for ‘freedom’ is worth exile, for me, selfishly nothing is worth the value of this place I call home. I have invested too much heart and head into this place to watch it go to waste. I am here to stay!
During this period, I was advised by many to leave the country. Apparently I was on an NIA watch-list and would be incarcerated or maybe even killed. I simply smiled at those ‘advises’ because I saw no reason why anything I had done in the past would warrant that. I had made a decision to stay home and to work on things even outside my university education and I would not be distracted. During this same period a number of people I was close to were going through strenuous times with the system. It was a difficult moment not just for me but for the people around me. However, a man of great faith, even as he went through his own tough time told me that the dust would settle. His strength gave me hope and kept my belief in truth, perseverance, humility and respect. Today I am glad I listened to him and will continue to be grateful.
Soon I had a sister on the run, a brother occasionally behind bars, confused friends and no clue of what tomorrow would bring. The one thing I would not have was a man who I had ZERO respect for and who I thought was a tool for his personal gain. Nderry Mbai sent me a Facebook message with a narrative on my ‘encounter’ asking for ‘my side’ of the story before he published the next morning. I hit the ‘delete’ key and went on with my business. The next morning ‘My Story’ was all over his page now very much distorted to appeal to his ‘audience’. I ignored it and moved on. Certain people on his side of the fence received my respect for exercising restraint. One or two people rode the ‘activist’ train in a respectful fashion and regardless of how reliable or unreliable their information was, ensured that it was done in a manner that at least demanded a nod.
It must be noted that all of this was after I and my friends had received heaps of insults the last few years at the hands of ‘the struggle’ for whatever reason they can actually come up with. Frustrated by our reluctance to ease up on our ‘rules of engagement’ the Internet turned into a wildfire of slurs and insults and ‘threats’ which were not just unbecoming but distasteful.
As things cooled off and The President himself patronised ‘Blaque Magique’ our December event by acquiring tables for high school students to attend. Nderry Mbai was again the person I had always known him to be as the stories and attacks began yet again. Except this time, it wasn’t just him and the few that had issues with Balafong in the past, it was a cohort of faces with unparalleled names; the same people that attack everything progressive and have been ‘tolerated’ by ‘the struggle’ for such a long time.
Now, no sane person should ever condone a nation having stories of missing persons without raising eyebrows. It is a serious concern for every peace loving Gambian. There are many things broken about The Gambia but I have traveled four continents and countless countries enough to appreciate home. A number of friends and I recently had a discussion on The Gambia and one of them said The Gambia was broken. I disagree! I vehemently disagree! We have broken things that need fixing but The Gambia is a beautiful place. It is unfortunate that we have too many negatives in a land as small as ours where things should be simpler. Sometimes I feel strangled simply because I can’t express myself as much as I would love to but I’d rather fix things on the ground than nag about them. Shoot me for being useful!! Kill me for being relevant! The grass is greener on this side.
I have tons more respect for our dormant opposition at home than for ‘the struggle’. It is an opinion that will not change regardless of where I find myself. One of the ‘fake profiles’ on the struggle once mentioned that when I find myself incarcerated (note WHEN not IF) they will open their arms to welcome me into the fold. I am not hungry for belonging. If I do get into trouble with the law or find myself on the wrong side of government’s long stick, I hope I will survive it long enough to continue working on my dreams and ideals. Unlike many, it is for better or worse for me.
The Gambia is a sneaky box of snakes. Even with a clean track record, I know there is always a possibility someone, somewhere who might not like me could easily land me in trouble. It is not a reality I have chosen to ignore, yet it is also not a reason for me to even ‘acknowledge’ the struggle. I believe I am having a bigger impact on people’s lives than an Internet-based struggle that focuses on below 200,000 Gambians online and believe that ‘saaga ndey’ is the way forward even though I have seen them vow to rid themselves of it. I do not trust people I cannot see and ‘the struggle’ is full of those. I do not know what they want to achieve apart from seeing the back of His Excellency; like a pack of kids running after an ice cream truck with no dalasis to buy the said ice cream.
I hope this clears the air of red black nonsense on my ‘political stance’. I am fatigued from missing my flight to the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers ACM in Geneva and do not want my frustrations to show. I continue on the path I have always been comfortable with. Should I get into trouble with the law, or His Excellency believes I am overstepping my bounds, or I step on a minister’s toes, or I meet an NIA officer unknowingly and say the wrong things, or pen a political piece that breaks a visible or invisible law and I find myself in the Grande Hotel or the other locations where breakfast is served in bed, it just might be an opportunity to spend time away from the many negatives our society is filled with. I like my meals hot, my beds soft, my roommates clean and my air fresh but God does what’s best, doesn’t He? I have a better chance pulling a prison break than having a ‘struggle’ protest shaking government with ‘budi ndeys’ enough to set me free.
My name is Latirr Carr. I am young, unmarried (that status changes soon), the only son of Reverend and Mrs Willie Carr. I am a success story with dreams bigger than our continent can fathom. I breathe Gambia and will forever love my country regardless of what it brings my way. I break down barriers. I hold no grudges. I am not invincible but I sure am special! If you haven’t seen me, you’ve probably heard of me. I am not arrogant. I am just real! I am World Economic Forum Global Shaper Curator and yeah it’s a mouthful for a reason. I want to change the world and I started by changing me. If you want to change the world too, hit me up and let’s do this…or better still, just follow this page