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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The specter of tribalism: do not tarnish the noble Mandinka name

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For too long now I have been receiving audio messages which speak of some threat that the Mandinka face in the Gambia. These messages speak about other ethnic groups particularly the Wolof and the Jola as hating the Mandinka. They claim that the time has come for the Mandinka to wake up and stand together to defend Mandinkaya by any means. They say for far too long the Mandinka have been marginalized in the Gambia and that the time has come to stand with the Barrow government to defend the emergence of the Mandinka. I have heard these audio messages sent to me from various Whatsapp forums. I condemn them 100%!

First of all as a Mandinka citizen of the Gambia I am highly disturbed and scared by these messages and claims, which I know to be utterly false and misleading. I therefore feel obliged as a Mandinka to have a responsibility to stand up in defense of my people against anyone who seek to tarnish the name and dignity of the Mandinka people. The Mandinka face no threats whatsoever in the Gambia and there is no ethnic group which hates the Mandinka. Likewise no decent and dignified Mandinka hates any ethnic group. There cannot be a Mandinka or any other particular ethnic hegemony in the Gambia. I will therefore not condone dishonesty camouflaged in the name of Mandinkaya or defense of the Mandinka people.

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I have discussed these audio messages with some of my family, friends, colleagues and fellow Mandinka citizens to tell them that they must condemn these messages. I have told them they should disassociate themselves from these messages or forums. We must condemn those individuals who spread such malicious messages in the name of Mandinkaya. Such messages have been the basis for conflict and genocide in many societies such as in Germany during World War II and the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
To the Mandinka, I want to tell you this. No one can harm or marginalize the Mandinka in the Gambia just as no one can harm any other ethnic group in the Gambia. We can only harm each other if we decide to go for each other’s throat in genocide.

The Mandinka are already a dominant culture and society in the Gambian nation. Gambian music, dress, food, ceremonies and its general way of life circulate around the Mandinka culture whose language is spoken in every media outlet and region of the Gambia as well as on online radio stations abroad. The Mandinka are well represented in the private sector as well as in the public sector and the civil society since Independence until today. Hence the Mandinka are well established in the Gambia like all other ethnic groups. Forever. But even with its majority population, the Mandinka pose no threat or discomfort to any other ethnic group likewise vice verse.

Therefore let us not allow the selfish interests of a few dishonest Mandinka men and women to scare the majority fellow Mandinka to feel threatened or scared. Such fear can lead to unnecessary defensive and offensive posturing against the rest of the Gambia leading to conflict for which no one would survive. These dishonest Mandinka men and women are merely engaged in this propaganda just to position themselves in our society in order to obtain undue benefits. Therefore let us expose and stop them from perpetuating such sectarian misinformation that threatens national unity. I will not allow Mandinkaya to be abused and misused in anyway by anyone.

It is true that Yaya Jammeh made insulting remarks against the Mandinka in Talinding on 3 June 2016. But bear in mind that when Yaya Jammeh was making those remarks, he was saying them in the midst of Mandinka men and women who applauded him and they never walked away. That Yaya Jammeh himself staged the 1994 coup with Mandinka soldiers and not with Jola, Wolof, Manjago or Aku boys. All throughout his misrule, his critical pillars have always been the Mandinka and he had continuously won in several Mandinka-dominated constituencies. However Yaya Jammeh is not the representative of the Jola or any other ethnic group and therefore his venomous statements must not make any Mandinka feel resentful towards any other ethnic group.

I wish to repeat that there cannot be a Mandinka hegemony in the Gambia and there is no threat facing the Mandinka in the Gambia. When an individual expresses anti-Mandinka diatribes, let us bear in mind that this is only one person who does not represent any community in the Gambia. He or she is therefore not speaking for no one except himself or herself. Yet whatever he or she says cannot be used to scare ourselves and go on the offensive against that person’s perceived ethnic group. Rather we must confront such a person for his or her tribalist remarks.

I am a proud Mandinka but am a more proud Gambian and even a more proud African. I will not condone anyone to disrespect any Gambian ethnic group. I will not accept anyone to use the good name of the Mandinka to put it into disrepute. The Barrow Administration is not a Mandinka Government and no one should seek to associate it with the Mandinka. Barrow is the President of the Gambia and all Gambians elected him. He represents the whole of the Gambia.

I want to call on all patriotic and proud Mandinka men and women to stand against those who wish to hide behind this false narrative that the Mandinka are under threat or hated by other ethnic groups. Let us condemn any individual who seeks to propagate the idea that there is a contest between the Mandinka and any other ethnic group. There is none. If individuals want positions, privilege or wealth, let them use genuine and honest methods but we must not allow them to exploit Mandinkaya for their diabolical purposes. Let us stand up to defend the good name and dignity of the Mandinka.

Similarly I wish to also call on all Gambians in other ethnic groups to stand up against tribalism. Stand up against any individual in your ethnic group who wishes to perpetuate the idea that the Mandinka hate them. The Mandinka as a group do not hate any ethnic group in the Gambia. Mandinkas have married wives and husbands from all ethnic groups and vice verse. The Mandinka live and work in all regions of the Gambia. We are all Gambians and we must judge each other based on only the content of our character and commitment to the supreme interests of the Gambia and not by our mother tongues. Stand up against anyone in your ethnic group who is perpetuating tribalism. This is the only way to stop and kill tribalism in the Gambia.

Let us unite as Gambians. The misrule of Yaya Jammeh has lots of lessons to teach us that tribalism is baseless and non-existent. Otherwise the brutality meted out to the Jola by Yaya Jammeh would not have occurred. That should tell us that Yaya Jammeh was never anti-Mandinka nor pro-Jola. His Chief Killer Sana Manjang was a Mandinka son. His victims cut across all ethnic groups more so among the Jola. Hence Yaya Jammeh was just a selfish, corrupt and brutal despot. Yet today we have some Gambians who are also perpetuating that same Yaya Jammeh trademark. They do so with sweet and logical narratives but underneath these, it is all falsehood aimed at hoodwinking our people for their own self aggrandizement. Reject them.

Similarly if the Wolof were tribalist we would have seen Banjul as the cleanest and most advanced city in Africa. But the poverty and dilapidation in Banjul despite its small size indicates that those Wolof who work in the government do not represent the interests of their people but their individual selves. Otherwise since independence they would have invested so much into Banjul to make it the most beautiful capital city in the world. But they did not. Therefore let us not perceive those people as the representatives of the Wolof and therefore condemn the entire Wolof population because of few Wolof individuals.

In the past Jawara or BB Darboe did not represent the Mandinka just as PS Njie or Sarah Janha did not represent the Wolof and likewise Yaya Jammeh or Yankuba Colley did not represent the Jola. Today Adama Barrow or Ousainou Darboe do not represent the Mandinka just as Hamat Bah or Mama Kandeh do not represent the Fula likewise James Gomez or Henry Gomez do not represent the Manjago and of course Halifa Sallah or Touma Njai do not represent the Wolof. These are individuals acting in their own individual capacities. They can be either honest or dishonest or patriotic or unpatriotic but noting to do with their ethnicity.

Be a Proud Gambian! We are One People!! Reject Tribalism in your Ethnic Group!!!

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