Njundu Drammeh

(JollofNews) – The incident which happened in Farato, whatever may have precipitated it, is rather unfortunate and yes the behaviour of the rampaging youth is uncalled for. As many people said, the youth and any other aggrieved party should have followed due process, shouldn’t have taken the law into their own hands, shouldn’t have burned a private vehicle, should have protested, a fundamental right, without resorting to violence, an illegality.

However, I would wish that we tamper our outrage with a little mercy, a little understanding. Ours is a new democracy and like “truth” it would also go through misinterpretation, abuse and misuse and finally sincere appreciation and acceptance of its intrinsic values and superiority to all forms of government tested and instituted by people.

Democracy comes with the good, the bad and the ugly. It, like human rights, will be abused and misused. Some of us will continue to act irresponsibly in our exercise and enjoyment of human rights. I wish we could avoid that but these come with the whole package. Even in very old or mature democracies such as the USA and India, peaceful protests sometimes turn violent; sometimes go with vandalism and thuggery. These are unacceptable and inexcusable but they happen. Oftentimes, they are not part of the original intent of the protest organizers but in the course of events tempers flare up, the heart rules over the head, and the violent streak in man rules….. Violence of any type is intolerable though.

Should we expect our democracy to be perfect, to not have the dredge of the bad and the ugly, to be not abused or exercised irresponsibly by some of us rights holders? Great if we could but I think it more wishful thinking. I think some of us will continue to act irresponsibly. It is not that something is bad or wrong about either human rights or democracy. These are great, ‘must haves’ if we are to live in dignity, be sovereign individuals, have a government accountable to the people, be able to periodically elect our governors, be guided by the rule of law, etc. There is no such thing as either “too much democracy” or “too much human rights”. People cannot also “abuse” their rights. They only act irresponsibly. Once a person abuses a right, that which is abused no longer becomes one’s right; it is a violation, an abrogation of someone’s right.

While i do not have much details about the Farato incident, I know for a fact that we are definitely in a new dawn and the “happenings” are a testimony. We had the university lecturers downed their tools; EFSTH workers protested against poor working conditions; Kololi, Kartong and Farato demonstrations; and the remembrance of the other dark days we witnessed. Within five months. In 22 years we had only 2 peaceful demonstrations, April 10 and 11, 2000 and April 2016, which were dastardly crushed by the naked force of a callous regime. So we are moving on as a people, progressively, aware that ours will also mature but will intermittently experience hiccups and seizures. The role of civol society in this maturation is all the more crucial and evident. It should begin to actively engage the citizenry in civil education, in every nook and corner, empowering and clarifying, building skills in negotiation and conflict resolution and articulating the various roles of duty bearers and where and how to seek redress.

For 22 years peoples and communities were denied outlets and forums to vent out grievances and show disgust to administrative malfeasance and corruption. They never knew how. It is highly likely that some of our communities are largely charged, bloating with anger due to a past wrong or unfair treatment or discrimination. We must establish forum for dialogue and discussions, to serve as catharsis…. Sometimes all people need is a listening ear and a soothing hand.

May be we our media to do more investigative journalism also. Through their work they would be able to put the searchlight on flash points and bring them to public attention before they reach the boiling point. Many a tensions may be averted in this way.

Governments agencies out to be proactive and taking firm action when they become aware of violations or potential flash points. The Farato problem may have been averted a long time ago if the first occupants of the disputed land were asked to vacate and those behind the first sale of land dealt with according to law. But when none took action at an illegal act; when state service providers were collecting dues, taxes and other charges; when the people coalesced as a community, it would be inhumane to evict them, even if legally ordered, after 10 or more years of occupancy.

In any case, this is a democracy we all must nurture, cherish and safeguard. As we grow as a country, so will our democracy and human rights culture grow. Each has a role to play in this “gardening”, to take individual responsibility for growth of our human rights culture. We cannot shrink away from that role….

“When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again” Edward Gibbons