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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Politics is never over

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With Aisha Jallow

Every fifth year there goes like a tremor through The Gambia. Local politicians suddenly remember that they are set in place to serve the people. Common citizens begin to discuss matters that concern them, and slowly the residents of the State House wake up from their slumber. Members of the National Assembly blow the dust off their documents and check which are still valid and which could be placed together with the others on the Mountain of the Forgotten Promises. The opposition parties create new WhatsApp groups and do their best to remind each other of what they are against. It’s not easy to be in opposition in a country where you are not supposed to oppose.

It takes time to get used to democracy, so the learning curve is long. The thing with a learning curve is that it is a process, an on-going process, and not only a pattern on a piece of paper. The learning curve looks more like the shape of hills and valleys, instead of a snake or a river. Imagine that you are riding a bike. The road is not flat all the time, you suddenly come to a hill and you have to strain yourself a bit harder to get up to the top of the hill. When you finally have reached the top, you enjoy the ride on the flat road. After a while you come to a slope downwards, and the speed gets faster. Whohoo, here you go with the wind in your hair, until you reach the bottom of the slope and have to climb up again.

Life is like that, it goes up and down, and when you are down it is tough to get up again. You have to strain yourself more but you mustn’t give up. When you learn something new, it is hard and it feels like you can’t see the top of the hill. If you keep on trying, you will get there and you will enjoy the view.

A politician must be a visionary, a person who always strains her- or himself to go further in the aim to develop the country. Politics is not a matter of a battle that comes every fifth year, and then fades out to a quiet murmur inside the walls of the National Assembly. Politics is also an on-going process, because it involves everything and everyone in the country.

The word politics comes from the Greek word politikos which means: matters that concerns the State. These matters are not only a matter of printing new posters and t-shirts with the face of the politician you are supposed to vote for. No, it is a matter of food supply, reliable electricity and water sufficiency, health care, un-employment, education that should be mandatory for every kid in The Gambia so we will not raise another generation of ignorants.

One political party is in lead and the others are in opposition. It is a matter of one party against….how many? They are so quiet so it is even impossible to find the answer online. The last time anything was updated concerning the political parties of The Gambia was 10 years ago!

Here is a cut from the President’s statement at the UN General Assembly, September 22:

“…..Gambia now has multiple political parties and vibrant civil society organisations, with a sharp rise in public participation in national affairs.”

This is a statement made by the President of The Gambia, I just had to make that clear if you didn’t recognize the narrative.

Have you heard the expression: ” Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”? If you do me a favour, I will pay it back and the next time it will be the other way around. It seems as this could be the picture of politics in The Gambia, common people have no clue what is going on behind the scenes. It is like the politics is more a matter of getting a nice office with a desk and a fan. The nicer equipment you have in your office, the more important you are. If someone, who doesn’t fully understand the extrem importance of your daily tasks, would come on a visit you would have someone there to tell that person to come back another day. Which day is not necessary to inform that nosy person, just another day and try to make it sound like there is some hope that the commoner actually would meet the Person of Great Importance one day.

The crowd of People of Great Importance meet and greet somewhere, where it is pleasant and the A/C is functioning. The political process seems to be like a kettle of tea that bubbles without really be boiling at any moment. You don’t have to fear that the temperature will get too high, not more than every fifth year, so you can prepare for that and switch off the gas. The election year is the Year of The Empty Promises. It is also the Year of The Loud Accusations, but never fear, because this is a show that is directed by some hidden puppeteers. They know exactly which strings to pull, and how to silence the opposition afterwards.

What so many haven’t understood is that all politics is built on conflicts. That doesn’t mean that politicians are supposed to argue all the time, or even worse. It is a matter of conflicting ideas and interests, a matter of sharpening one’s arguments so one can convince the others how to vote in a certain matter. Politicians are not supposed to be scratching each other’s backs and expecting favours. No, politicians in opposition are supposed to keep the ruling counterpart on their toes. They are supposed to speak up and speak out, to write articles and involve the citizens in the political debate so they will feel that the politics concern them.

Children of The Gambia are raised not to raise their voices. That is the old-school way of raising children, but times are changing and with that the demands. The Gambia is not isolated, it is depending on the outer world so to be able to cope with that world we must widen our views. This is another process, which is impossible if we don’t understand it. The understanding comes through education and serious debates in which we involve our young ones as soon as they are able to raise their voices. Becoming a valuable and responsible citizen doesn’t happen over night, or through a miracle. It can only happen through exercising our human rights in which it includes the freedom of speech. Allow the young ones to be involved in debates and decision making, then one day they are fully prepared to take over the world and hopefully by then do a better job than we have done so far.

Every school, here in Sweden, has a school council which includes 2 representatives from each class. They meet once a month and discuss matters that concerns the pupils. The pupils makes suggestions about improvements and vote to decide what will be possible to achieve. This is a political process and it is making our young ones to get involved and to raise their voices. Every matter is transparent and informed to the other pupils, every meeting is a lesson in democracy. Politics is an on-going process and your voice matters. You matter, so get involved! Ask the opposition to speak out, keep them all on their toes because you are the ones who pay their salaries. Politics is never over, so don’t allow the politicians to remain silent.

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