The comedian Kitabu made a video monologue last year in which he pleaded with Mark Zuckerberg to “remove Facebook” from The Gambia because it was imperiling the social cohesion that held the country’s people together from the times of the ancient empires. Of course, it was a silly idea but even in its silliness, it served as a commentary on something that is fundamentally wrong with our country and its people.
The availability of the Internet has brought about an explosion of social media with platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram. All of a sudden everyone has a voice that could literally be amplified instantaneously to billions of people around the world. Everyone has become a journalist. You could write on your wall or status or stream a live or record a video and everyone could read or listen or watch it. And you could pretty much say anything.
It has led to the spread of fake news but more insidiously, it has enabled bigots to peddle and spread their bigotry at whoever and wherever they pleased. In the freedom space created in the post-Jammeh Gambia, these bigots have gone on steroids by writing sulfuric articles and posting videos and audios denigrating and insulting whole tribes, the entirety of the populations of cities and towns, and respected temporal and spiritual leaders.
These statements most of the time textually and contextually are libelous or seditious, designed to promote hatred or impugn the good character of innocent individuals or groups and even in some instances incite violence and uprising. But this government, principally its prosecuting authorities – the police and the Attorney General’s Chambers – in the name of faux democracy, has failed to act and remove this cancer from growing and becoming more malignant.
These vile acts could lead to the breakdown of law and order and spiral into violence, and destruction of properties and even lives if some person or some group, because of the failure of the state, decided to serve some rough justice on one of the people engaging in these dastard activities. Ignore the so-called libertarian nonsense, the parental insults law should be brought back and even broadened and fully executed.
By doing so, Mr Hydara would not need to put a million-dalasi bounty on the head of a misguided Wahhabi student; the baying crowd of Mandingo youths would not lay siege to Mr Jaiteh’s apartment in Sweden and a rickety-legged talking head would not be lynched in Banjul. If the people refused to be disciplined, the state must step in and discipline them for the common good.