By Almameh S Manga
LLM Human Rights and
Criminal Justice (Candidate)
University of Aberdeen
Scotland, United Kingdom
Tribalism is omnipresent, and it pedals an assortment of our actions, in the negative light. The recent uproar caused by irresponsible WhattsApp audios only corroborates this assertion. This piece therefore serves as a sobering expression on this inbuilt but potentially disparaging characteristic of human nature, in these worried and gloomily uncertain times. The Gambia is a blessed nation and her people must consider themselves very lucky with an unrivalled national identity and of course with an insignificant level of inter-communal and tribal resentment.
Having said that, the truth is, the politics in the tiny West African nation somehow tends to revolve around individuality, clientele and performance. That is not to say that ethnicity and religion are no longer the most deep seated and fortified group identities in the part of Africa we find ourselves in. However, there is no evidence to show that these two factors have been politicised in our beloved Gambia. I say this because, there is little or no literature to bring to light how any political party tried to take advantage of these potentially dangerous forces in pursuit of political office and I hope the status quo remain the same as we enter into a new dawn of democracy.
According to Arnold Hughes, there was some bit of enmity between the then colony and the protectorate around the 1950s towards the early 1960s. Political analysts have credited Sir Dawda and his PPP government for masterminding a successful common ‘Gambian Identity’ during his era at the seat of power. Even Jammeh could not be said to have used tribe to propagate his political agenda during his early days at the helm of affairs, although this trend was under threat in the latter stages of his rule. However, it never became a major issue.
Even in the early days of independence, tribalism was a rarity in Gambia as it did not feature extensively in the echelons of Gambian politics following the Marlborough conference where Gambia’s bid for internal self-rule was extensively argued. There is no evidence or if any, then it’s not readily available that Sir Dawda and his government had used tribe or religion for political gains. Hughes went on to state that power had to be based on a ‘cross ethnic coalition’ as there is no political cohesiveness for any ethnic group to operate as an exclusive tribal block. Gambians are inter-married and this means any attempt to enable the tribal monster take charge of our peaceful co-existence will die a natural death.
Tribal politics: An enemy of democracy
The biggest threat to every democracy is tribal politics. Evidence has shown that it can all go wrong when tribalism mixes with politics as politicians who are desperately in search of power may resort to mechanisms that may destroy us only for their parochial interests and that is why we must all be careful how we align ourselves to politicians. Our interest is peace because that is what benefits us regardless of one’s political affiliation. Ample evidence has shown that most conflicts in Africa are due to political and tribal reasons.
From Kenya, Ivory Coast, DRC, Sierra Leone, Darfur etc, the story has always been the same. The recent story of Consolata Akinyi, a Kenyan national living in Ghana can only serve as a testimony to the ugly side of tribalism and tribal politics. I note that in this part of the world, our issues can rarely be discussed without the mention of tribes but are tribes really important? Yes but only to the extent that they define who we are as people and nothing further. If we abuse and neglect the significance of our diversity as a nation, then we might be doomed with serious ramifications. Do not use tribe for your own destruction.
To find a fitting therapist to the problem of tribal politics, a holistic approach ought to be fashioned, taking into consideration all stakeholders. Leaders, firstly, must make it a priority to lead the campaign against tribal politics. Their significance or lethargy in how the issue is tackled can annihilate or enlarge the dilemma. The media must play a critical role in this in a sense that they must avoid the unnecessary reportage.
They must circumspect as not every inciting speech must be brought to the public domain regardless of how stimulating it might be due to the consequential problems associated with such. Additionally, our association with Facebook and particularly WhatsApp must be seriously interrogated. Irresponsible users of social media must be tamed with responsible measures with possibly, legislation to the effect. Freedom of speech although significant, is not absolute and may lead to the thrashing of such freedom especially when abused. Responsible speeches must be encouraged thus refine our language before it gets to the public space as a word said cannot be retracted.
In light of the above, we as citizens must promote discipline from homes to the streets and become more tolerant bearing in mind the need to encourage unity in diversity. The potency of every nation is how cohesive her people are. The diversity in us must be wisely used as an instrument to bring about development and not to bring about animosity in the country.
One Gambia, One Nation, One People.