Mr. President, key on your agenda today as president should be the maintenance of peace and stability. No nation in this day and age can be proud of its democratic gains in the absence of peace and stability. Compare with her counterparts on the continent from independence, the Gambia was known to have enjoyed relative peace and stability until 1981 when Kukoi Samba Sanyang launched an abortive coup against the democratically elected government of president Jawara.
Those that witnessed this tragic political event can narrate how our people have suffered within a period of two weeks, both physically and psychologically. Mr. President, you were even a witness to this as you were 16 years of age but should be able to remember the most disturbing parts of it even though you might have been in Mankamang Kunda at the time. The event of 1981 as explained by John A. Wiseman in his research work “Revolt in the Gambia: A Pointless Tragedy” shows us why the coup was unexpected. He argued:
Firstly one would have to point to the country’s past record of political stability. Since independence in 1965 The Gambia has been a, sometimes lonely, outpost of political tranquillity in a troubled area. Until the recent tragedy there had not been a single death caused by political violence.
A minor exception to this general picture appeared in autumn 1980 vwhen a Commander Mahoney of the Field Force was assassinated by one of his men for personal reasons and a handful of militant left-wingers started to call for the overthrow of Jawara. Five of the militants were arrested and for a short time Senegalese troops were called in but no fighting took place.
At the time I believed the action of the Government to be an overreaction; events have shown that it may well have been an under reaction.
This shows us how the failure of the government at the time to treat the matter with absolute seriousness nearly led to a serious political havoc that would have rendered the country another war tone.
Mr. President, many if not all literatures that talked about the 1994 military takeover, considered it to have been a ‘bloodless’ one. Bloodless or bloody, Gambia would have experienced another 1981 event or even worse than that had Jawara and his men resisted the undemocratic change of government.
Gambians embraced and supported the unconstitutional and undemocratic change of government led by Jammeh and his men and we have no one to blame but ourselves, especially both the PPP government for its failure to prevent the coup by allowing a democratic change of government; and the Junta as well, for raping our unique multi-party democracy in the presence of countries now considered examples of democracy on the continent but were one time authoritarian through one-party system (Senegal, Ghana etc).
It is in light of the above Mr. President, that your government must make it a priority to promote and maintain peace and stability in the country. The events in Foni, especially the last week Kanilai incident, should bring to your attention, that the Gambia needs peace and only peace first before anything else. Certainly, your administration would find it tricky to achieve any of its goals if people continue to live in constant fear. As Afrifa Gitonga said, ‘democracy is built on full bellies and peaceful minds’. Our new democratic gains cannot survive once our very active peace is threatened.
It is for this reason Mr. President, that I once called on you to deliver a national unification message. But it seems you are a bit relaxed. You must step up and take the lead. Having the Homeland Security Minister talked to the country, calling the incident an ‘accidental discharge’ cannot be easily fathomed.
Gambians must know that ECOMIG forces are here to maintain peace and stability. We have had a dictatorship for 22 years which succeeded in highly monopolizing the security sector that some of them had to cry when the man was leaving for exile. Such personnel cannot be trusted and deserve nothing but a public punishment as their loyalty ought to be for the state and not an individual.
However, we must not also make the mistake that our army is entirely loyal to Jammeh. I am of the strong conviction, that we have professional security officers in the army that will discharge their functions as state personnel and are loyal to the Gambian state. Mr. President, literatures have taught us that, one of the factors to the 1994 takeover was the way in which Nigerian officers who were serving in the Gambia were closer to Jawara. This created discomfort and there was no option but a military takeover. However, no military officer should even attempt to stage one as Gambians and the international community will resist it. The world is now coup-phobia and the army must know that.
Essentially Mr. President, please be proactive in your moves. Take the lead and address the nation. Do not compromise peace and stability, if not it will compromise our democracy.
Yours in the service of the nation
A sovereign and a concern Gambian citizen