Alagi Yorro Jallow

 (JollofNews) – Off with his nose to spite his face: “Cutting off the nose to spite the face” is an expression used to describe a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one’s anger. Yet, the government is acting out recklessly, as is the Interior Minister thus far. Hopefully someone talks some sense into President Barrow and quickly; otherwise, he’ll end up just as much a flop as a petulant politician who never learn only to act on revenge.

Politicians will need to exercise restraint. Leadership is about educating the public that civil war in a democracy is not a spectator sport. It is not about ratcheting up security measures, or giving vent to revenge to shore up an image of toughness. It is about allowing people to have their say on issues of war and peace, not just at the outset but continuously share grievance and, perhaps, not to take vengeance instead show love and forgiveness.

Revenge politics and paranoia are distracting the government of President Adama Barrow. There is a dangerous pattern in Gambia’s approach towards the security challenges. On the one side, it is complacent in settling the security against the party cadres of the APRC, perhaps because of its political calculations; on the other, it is using collective punishment tactics to deal with the APRC militancy. The current security situation will vouch for this policy’s failure. Still his fanatics continue to applaud every action or inaction of his, showing weird loyalty to an individual or party rather than to the nation. A leader can heal the wounds of his nation or aggravate such wounds. A leader can bring peace to his nation or cause a war to erupt within his nation.

Personal angst, public interest, and a sharp eye for a political opportunity have combined in different measures to prompt Mai Fatty to do what he himself may have regarded as unthinkable: revolt against the Foni leadership. No matter what else it does or does not, this revenge of the underdog is a success. It might not help President Barrow much in the short term, but could have long-term implications for President Barrow that is the nature of revenge. Because of political hero worship, some people lose their basic humanity and sense of logic.

I have said it time and again that the Gambia is on a very dangerous political trajectory. Gambians do not be fooled, know that violence breeds violence and when it spills out of control no one of us is safe, we all would be affected regardless of our social and political standing in society.

We have reached a point where most of us have lost the normal human feelings of empathy and sympathy for one another. My heart was broken seeing how many people celebrated the tragic killing of Haruna Jatta while others went ahead without thinking of what the family who just experienced an unexpected permanent loss were feeling, they even reached a point of blaming the deceased person for his own death.

Prior to that we saw many APRC members being brutally having their dear lives cut short others for the simple mistake of wearing APRC t-shirt. Others have been stripped naked like we saw on social media while many more have been forced out of trading places and Gambian always found this amusing.

Since yesterday social media in Gambia has been gripped with yet another sad story of a young lady who is a being attacked by alleged members of party cadres and the only crime she committed was to belong to Yahya Jammeh’s tribe.

Gambians, does it have to get this far for us to realize that the path we are on is unsustainable? How much more blood of innocent people must be shaded to maintain the status quo? There is no darker period in our recent history than the dictatorship era of Yahya Jammeh. There is hardly any Gambian family that was left untouched by death and grief during the Yahya’s dictatorship. To this day, we carry with us stories of men killed in incommunicado, women raped in detention centers, and children left orphaned by countless human rights violations across the country and all throughout the tenure of Yahya Jammeh.

Today, the man who set the wheels of dictatorship in motion is in exile in Equatorial Guinea as a farmer. This is a man who buried us in debt and left us mourning our dead as he stole from the country’s coffers and pillaged our nation for more than 20 years.
For how long shall we continue blaming the victims when we should have been sympathizers? It has never been a crime for one to belong to a party of choice but why should we allow cadres define society?

Let’s end this madness and allow people to freely join and express their political affiliation. This isn’t just a right but also one of the duties of citizens in a democracy.

Let’s respect the right of members to parties of their choice. No one should not victimize people for being APRC the same way no one should not be allowed to victimize people. Nothing can change history. Nothing can change the truth. Yahya Jammeh is a bad man. He is not a great man, not a human man. He is a machine; a money machine; stripped by his overwhelming passion of greed of every quality which makes a man unworthy of a citizen. He has not made good. He cannot make good. It is not him. He has nothing the aspiring world needs.

On the contrary, that for which he does stand is a menace, to our free development not only or chiefly, our free development in human rights, but vastly more important, our free development in citizenship and morals.

To deny that these atrocities happened and to forget the suffering it has caused is to betray our history as people who fought for freedom from the dark days of dictatorship. Yahya Jammeh is inconsolable and unforgivable. The people of Foni does not deserve to suffer for Yahya.

It is in these stories that we as a nation will share grievance and, perhaps, the urge to avenge. It is these instincts that need to be led and shaped. If they are left unchecked, if private reason can become supreme, if each is left to judge for themselves what is right, then we will be left with the chaos of conflicting claims. That is why we need not politics but leadership.

This should have set a precedent to put aside politics in the name of national unity. President Barrow could have simply solved the current political crisis instead of his Interior Minister. He would have strengthened his claim to national leadership by inviting all political actors with him in Foni to show that there were times – even in a fiercely political tension – when national leadership mattered more than party politics.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

The author is founder and former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005. He was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, a 2007 Nieman fellow and is the author of Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia published in 2013.