I finished last week’s article like this:
“There is a sense of security in what you know well; your family, your village, your tribe. You vote for what you know, there are no guarantees that things will become better, but you hope that it wouldn’t at least become worse. With your eye to the ground it is hard to change perspective, but try to do that for a while. Ask yourself – what is your worth? Should you settle with a life in despair, or should you strive for something better? Your lost hope can be found again if you keep on looking for it.”
The Gambian people belong to many tribes, but the main tribe is to be Gambian. There is no use arguing about this or that tribe, as you are so mixed. There are no “pure” families or “pure” tribes, consisting of only Fulas or Mandinkas or whatever. You are mixed, and it would be impossible to not be mixed as you are only about two million citizens of The Gambia.
Belittling anyone else’s tribe would be like belittling someone’s mother or father. Speaking hatefully about anyone else’s tribe would be like speaking hatefully about someone’s parents or extended family.
Where is the root of this evil? It is the ones who gained by dividing you and to conquer you. It is Yahya Jammeh and his minions who took every opportunity to spread their venom in people’s minds. You were brainwashed for 22 years and now your minds need to be rewound. If you search your heart, you know that being a Gambian is more important than which tribe you belong to – because how can you know that exactly? If your parents are from different tribes, or your grandparents – how do you choose? Will one part of you be dominating and the other part neglected because it belongs to the wrong tribe? Which part of you is wrong ? Your arms, one of your legs or perhaps your head?
I am trying to look behind the sense of tribalism, looking at the main source of it. I have written about this, some years ago, but I feel that I need to get back to the topic as there will be a presidential election on December 4th and there might be some tension because of tribalism. One’s tribe was very important in the old days when that was what you knew and was comfortable with. This was long before airplanes, cars and Internet, during the time when it took a long time to get from one place to another as you had to walk there. Your tribe was your safety net, it gave you security because you were surrounded by your extended family and depended on it for everything in life.
Men hunted together with other men in their tribe, women harvested edible plants together and took care of the meat from the hunted animals. Men went fishing together and women cooked the fish. There were no supermarkets back then, and people depended on each other to get enough food. People got married within their tribe because they were comfortable with the people who had the same values and the same culture as them. The Gambia was part of something larger by then, but was divided by the colonialists and forced into a tiny country surrounded on three sides by Senegal.
Those you counted as countrymen became foreigners, languages that were not your own were forced upon you. Old traditions and rituals were considered as pagan and you were supposed to transform into a bleak copy of your masters. You were not allowed to rise above the masters, therefore your schools taught only the mere basics. Heaven knows what would have happened if you would have got a proper education and began to demand your rights? That simply couldn’t be done, so you were taught to look up to your masters as demi-gods. What the master said or did was not to be questioned, you were taught to respect and accept whatever you were given – good or bad.
When someone interferes in your life, invades your space and demands his right to rule your life, you slowly transform from an individual to someone in a crowd that can either be ignored or pushed in whatever direction the ruler wishes. Your mind doesn’t matter, your opinions don’t count, your dreams are shattered and you even begin to question yourself. We have a proverb here in Sweden: “When you spit enough times on a stone, it becomes wet.”
A stone gets warm by the sun, if it gets wet it will dry quickly – normally. If someone keeps on spitting on the stone, it will not dry because it will never get the chance. It will remain wet and in a sad condition because of the spat.
If you are taught, from the beginning of your life, that you are nothing then you begin to believe that about yourself. This sounds very harsh, I know, but ask yourself – how many times have you demanded your rights? You have different masters now-more than during the colonialism-but they rule you just as well. How long will you allow them to do that? You are affected by colonialism, but also by your own people who have done their level best to split you up and make you believe that this or that group of Gambians are bad.
Jammeh made rule by division his trademark – and he made identity issues, ethnicity and religion in particular – relevant in politics in ways they were not before.
Jammeh’s spin on tribalism was to accuse members of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Mandinka, of tribalism. He threatened the Mandinka with extinction. ( I will kill you like ants and nothing will come out of it. In June 2016, Jammeh spoke at a rally in Tallinding and claimed that “since 1994 all the trouble makers have been Mandinkas. If you don’t behave I will bury you nine feet deep.” The speech led to condemnation by the UN’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide.
Why Jammeh was pointing out the Mandinka was related to the ethnic belonging of our first president, Dawda Jawara who was ousted by Yahya Jammeh in a coup in 1994.
Tribalism gets us to practice nepotism, and nepotism is a form of discrimination where you place family members and friends in positions they are not always fitted for. Tribal issues will hold The Gambia back, and instead of thinking about tribes we should consider us as Gambians and let that be it. It doesn’t matter if you are a Serahule, Wolof or Jola, your hunger feels the same, your blood has the same colour as everyone else’s when it is spilled in an accident on our broken roads.
What benefits you will also benefit your countrymen. All children of The Gambia will benefit from a proper education and they will be able to build a different future than the one you were allowed to dream of.
Most Gambians are living below the poverty line, is that a fact that must be presented ten years from now, or even five? Being proud of your tribe is a good thing but tribalism brings nothing, but conflict and hatred. Look up from your habitual narrow road and look ahead to see the road that leads you to the future.
Don’t allow anyone to divide you and your people, be proud, be together, be Gambian.