Alagi Yorro Jallow

In a multicultural country like The Gambia, an inclusive national identity makes solidarity possible. An exclusive, nostalgic national identity acts like a cancer in the body politic, eating away at the bonds of affinity and cooperation that hold our interests together.
Gambians need to know this: there is no glory in blaming yourselves for the evil of the powerful. You are not being humble, at all, to say that tribalism starts with us. No. Blaming, we the citizens for tribalism makes us self-mutilating, not humble. And it is not Christian or Islamic.

And no, tribalism is not naturally Gambian. I’ve said it repeatedly, in different forums, that we were set up to be tribalist by the state not allowing opportunities for Gambians to connect and interact politically across tribe.

This is a project that started with the British and was actively encouraged by successive Gambian political leaders during and after independence and aggravated by the current breed of politicians rule the country. These are just a few of those ways.

When I say tribalism is a mental illness, it is not to demonize mental illness. I have a lot of sympathy for patients of mental illness. I’m saying that even with tribalism, we must treat Gambians as broken and sick, not only as bigots, but narcissist, the protagonist of tribalism. It’s the political system inherited that is evil and is hurting and destroying the Gambian soul and psyche. We are not taught our history. We are exploited and then insulted for daring to say that we’re hurting.

We were killed and traumatized by politicians and dictatorship, but we got no justice. Instead, we watched suspects walk away singing and praying. We talk so much about the psychic impact of such violence and impunity at home, but we don’t talk about the effect of the same violence on our socio-political consciousness. We need revolution to change our political system, but Gambians need therapy and treatment to heal our collective psyche.

In fact, I’m very disappointed with the psychiatrists and psychologists in the Gambia who have not come up with a national mental healing agenda. We have not heard them talk nationally about the political intolerance, bigotry and narcissism. About urban overcrowding. About stress levels increasing with poor management and an absurd education system. About the trauma of discrimination, marginalization, tribalism and extra-judicial killings.

A country that produces mental health workers who have never read Frantz Fanon’s work, on the impact of oppression on individual and social mental health, is a joke.

If you trace it back, it becomes clear that tolerance, empathy and compassion, along with basic human rights, are put forth only as a conduit of political gain for politicians.
Sadly, idiots today only listen to the propaganda that is spewed, rather than looking at the facts of history. That’s what teaching our real history.