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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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The abuse of Ebrima Dibba

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By Alagie Saidy-Barrow

I listened to the audio that reportedly got Mr Ebrima Dibba arrested and I will get to his choice of words but let me begin by saying that his arrest is nothing but the abuse of the law by the APRC/NPP Government. We saw this same APRC/NPP tactic used against Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, we saw it used against  Madi Jobarteh, we saw it used against my nephew Alagie Bora Sisawo, and we saw it used against Momodou Sabally. Sadly, today, Dr Ismaila Ceesay would probably tell you that his abuse in the hands of the APRC/NPP Government is justified.

That the APRC/NPP Government still relies on laws created by the British to abuse Africans is tragic. We only replaced the colonial overlords with African overlords. What Dibba said may have displeased President Adama Barrow but displeasing Barrow is not a crime! Dr Ismaila Ceesay would have been punished for calling Adama Barrow CLUELESS if that was a crime. What Mr Dibba is going through is nothing but lawfare! Lawfare is the “abuse” of the law to intimidate or harass one’s opponents.

That brings me to our Security Sector Reform! I have argued that the centrality of our security sector reform must revolve around the mindsets of security personnel and civilian authorities overseeing them. Security Sector Reform is on the wrong footing when security forces can be used as tools for the abuse of citizens. You see, Security Sector Reform goes beyond a security force that is answerable to civilian authorities; a reformed security force also means that security forces are positioned to refuse to be the tools used in lawfare. Sadly, in the Gambia, the dictator may have left, but the dictatorship and its attendant mindset mostly remain intact. This is why you still hear our security personnel telling us, “It’s orders from the top.”

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Here is a different dimension that we seldom include in our calculations of trying to legislate or enforce laws against hurting the feelings of those with power. In our social system, it is wrong for any of us to speak to or about those older than us using certain injurious language. In Ebrima Dibba’s audio, I heard him say in Mandinka that Adama Barrow knows nothing. In English, that sounds innocent, but in Mandinka, it’s inappropriate to tell someone older than you that they know nothing. Therefore, if we were bound by our traditional norms and values, Ebrima would have been chastised for what he said about Adama Barrow. That we abandoned such traditional values and respect for each other and turned our politics into anything goes is where the problem lies.

On the flip side, I have also heard others, including Adama Barrow and his supporters, speak of Mr Ousainou Darboe, who is much older than him, in ways that would have definitely been frowned upon by our traditional norms of respecting your elders. As the President, Adama Barrow should be at the forefront of engendering respect and values among the people and not someone who disregards, applauds, or remains silent when respect and traditional values are being scorched. One cannot speak ill of the elders of others and insist that they must not speak ill of you! That is why the President must be guided in what he says during his public engagements.

We can politic without injuring our traditional norms and values, we can politic without belittling or lampooning others and we can politic without attacking the person. Wherever political speech supplants mutual respect, it is impolitic! And lawfare is not the solution! What’s happening to Mr Ebrima Dibba is abuse and history is recording the events of abuse as well as those orchestrating it.

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