By Omar Bah
Momodou Malcolm Jallow, a Gambian-Swedish parliamentarian, has urged President Barrow and the country’s opposition to lead by example.
“Our leaders must show leadership by spreading a message of unification rather than division,” MP Jallow told The Standard from his base in Sweden.
Mr Jallow, who is also a renowned human rights activist, said leadership comes with great responsibility.
“Any leader that has the wellbeing of the Gambia at heart and not their personal interest would show leadership by unequivocally condemning, addressing and dissociating themselves from any form of incitement to tribal hatred, defamation and insults,” Jallow added.
This, he added, “is about our values as a people and not about partisan politics. It is about speaking out rather than remaining quiet or neutral because being quiet is equivalent to complicity.”
The newly found perceived freedom and democracy, Jallow said, has been interpreted by some as the right to incite tribal hatred, defamation, insults and harassment.
“We note with great concern how the current election campaign has accentuated symptoms of a crisis of democracy which have been present for some time now. Incitement to tribal hatred, criminality and poverty has become the new order of the day and a course of serious concern for many Gambians and non-Gambians alike,” he said.
He said democracy should be understood “not just as a system or the sum of individual rights, but as a form of society which requires rules for social justice and redistribution and implies not only delegating and taking decisions, but also discussing and living together in dignity, respect and solidarity”.
“One of the strongest attributes that Gambians historically are known for has been our ability to live together in dignity, respect and solidarity in multi-tribal settings. The latest developments of incitement to tribal hatred and limitless insults on social media are a clear deviation from what was once a norm within Gambian society,” he added.
Jallow said the renewal of Gambian politics also requires the development of a new culture of civic and political responsibility.
“This needs to be considered in terms of responsiveness and accountability, as well as transparency, first and foremost on the part of those who govern but this also applies to political parties and their supporters and civil society actors who participate in the political debate. We have a collective responsibility as a people,” he stated.
Jallow added: “A common thread that I have observed in Gambian politics is the tendency to focus on personal conflicts and tribal lines rather than policy.
“The politician and political parties that aspire for political office seldomly discuss their policy objectives and reforms with regards to taxes, education, affordable housing, the environment, trade, foreign policy, jobs etc, but use most of their air time discussing the personalities of their opponents or reacting to claims made by other parties and their followers,” he said.
As Gambians, Jallow added, “We must demand higher political ethos and standards from our political parties. They must beyond all reasonable doubt give an account of the policies they intend to put in place to address the respective challenges that ordinary Gambian people are facing every day.”
He said Gambians must step away from the obsolete misconception of perceiving public and government institutions as bearers of power over the people rather than as trustees that are entrusted by the people with a mandate to serve in the interest of the people and for the people.
Jallow said an active and well-informed populace is a prerequisite for an effective and well-functioning democracy.
“Now that we have a chance, a choice and a voice, let us make sure it is used responsibly, not for the tribe we belong to but for that which is best for the Gambia and all the people living in it. To vote for anyone or any party simply because of their tribe, wealth or fame without knowing their policy directions and objectives, is to throw away your vote and a travesty for democracy,” he concluded.