Njundu Drammeh

You may disagree with the whole idea or rationale behind #OccupyWestfield. You may shout from the rooftop “Down with OccupyWestfield”.

It is your right. It is to dissent, to disagree. But you cannot insist the organiser(s) cannot shout #OccupyWestfield or even go to occupy WestField. That would be a violation of their right. To deny them that right is to force them to accept that your position is right. That, in my humble view, would be dictatorship. Organise a counter #UpWithNAWEC” campaign if you wish. That would still be your right.

And No, one does not have to exhaust “all local remedies” before one can protest or show one’s frustration with the workings or acts of commission/omission of the Government. What about spontaneous protests? What if one feels, right or wrong, that the agency is not doing good enough- your best may be my average.

And Yes, rural Gambia was in the dark for a long while. So? Are you celebrating a denial of a right. The lack of electricity in rural Gambia was injustice, a discriminatory approach of a Government which took services only to its supporters. If those people never protested it may be because they were afraid of the State, didn’t know how, weren’t organised or were forced to be stoic. It was not because they never wanted electricity or portable water.

No part of the Gambia should go without the basics which make life worthy and dignified. If rural Gambia is “enjoying” electricity now and Greater Banjul isn’t, we should still ask why and protest if need be. It should not be the case of or support in favour of reverse discrimination.

We should protect the right to protest and insist the State respects and fulfils it. It would be a right we would come to enjoy unencumbered, when we have a cause to protest. The denial of this right and its violent and needless suppression in the past remain a dark chapter in our chequered political history.

It gave us freedom nonetheless. Remember when these patriotic citizens marched for freedom and dignity, at their peril, some of our people derided and scorned them. What was seen as an individual fight against one of the most ferocious and deadliest Governments gave birth ultimately to freedom now being enjoyed by all. It was a fight for a right just as #OccupyWestfield is, fight for a right. I don’t think we should pooh-pooh it as a sanctimonious irrelevance.

Gambia, when a person believes a certain social condition needs redeeming or a right needs respect, protection or fulfilment by the primary duty bearer, we should support at most or not hinder at least. Imagine if most of us had joined the late Solo Sandeng and co on that fateful day or Darbo on long match or with Baboucarr Ceesay and Saidykhan when they wanted to protest against the execution.

Imagine what a movement and a message we would have sent and the ground swell we would have created. Nothing can stop People Power in the long run. But some of us were condescending and patronising. It was “their” fight. “Not in my name” we shouted with glee. Who now is not enjoying the fruits of these sacrifices? These and #OccupyWestfield are about rights, even if different rights.

And yes, even if it is just one person out of our 2.8 million people who feels dissatisfied with NAWEC, the 2.8 million do not have rights greater than that of the one person and vice versa nor can one silence the other.