Njundu Drammeh

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Time to move the discussions and the discourses from the conference and hotel halls to the village bantabas, naakos (gardens), osusus, vous and “campeh palaas”, and from the center to the backwaters and the periphery.

Time for the people, Marx’s proletariat, to become the dicussants, to be at the center of the discussions, to interrogate matters as they are uninfluenced by polemics, academic obfuscation or gimmickry; not the political elite or the petite bourgeois or the intellectual. The converted are mainly talking to each other.

If the interrogation of the Gambia we want and how the government must be and behave is not taking place where they should and matter must, the homes and communities, then we must redirect and refocus the search light to these “small places”.

Time to move the discussions and the discourses from the conference and hotel halls to the village bantabas, naakos (gardens), osusus, vous and “campeh palaas”, and from the center to the backwaters and the periphery.

Democracy, human rights and good governance do not get enough meaning until they are understood and appreciated by the people; until they become enduring ethical standards in the lives of the people.

Peace, the absence of conflict and presence of social justice, is created in the same place where war, the presence of inequality, inequities and bigotry, resides, as irreconcilable bed fellows.

Since both peace and war reside in the minds of people, it is there, according to UNESCO, that the fight for peace, the presence of social justice, should begin. And the starting point is at that place where people reside, in the homes and communities.

Thus, the entrenchment of the goal of TRRC, justice wrapped in equity inside communal co-existence and rule of law, the “never again” slogan, will be enduring when the people, who are often the fodder and handmaiden of political manipulation and chicanery understand and cuddle what it sets out to build for them.

Democracy is not just a system of government; it is a type of society too where only the democratic person can reside, with democratic ideals, accepting a democratic way of life, living by democratic tenets and values and treating everyone, and accepting to be treated by others, in a democratic way.

Democracy, to be meaningful, must be appreciated and “owned” by the people, imbibed and lived as a way of life. Democracy must be at the centre of the communal discourse.

We must take the discourses about the rule of law, human rights, the constitutional review, New Gambia, TRRC, etc to the people, to the backwaters, to every hamlet and village, to the vous and bantabas and osusus. No one should be left untouched. All should feel that this is country they have stakes in, equal to every other person.

Time for the elite to stop talking to each other and take the discussions where they matter; not in the chambers and halls of Senegambia.