Alagi Yorro Jallow

Gambian, care to Listen to a pertinent sermon from Pope Francis? “Power is like gin in an empty stomach. You get drunk, feel dizzy, lose your balance – and hurt those around you”. As Gambians, we really ought to remain one, united, indivisible Gambia where justice is our shield and defendant and, where people live peaceful, harmonious and productive lives: If some of our religious and political class are fostering such deep divisions, partisanship and intolerance, who will unite this country?

Pluralism, peace and harmony that the Gambia enjoyed since independence is not godsend. This peace is borne of a culture we have built, a culture of mutual respect and tolerance amongst our people irrespective of one’s caste, tribe, religion or political orientation.

Political competition should not, and must not be concerned as platform for animosities, threats, and posturing, that jeopardize our country’s long cherished peace.

All this grand posturing doesn’t well for the Gambia. For it gives some feelings to our peace-loving people that we are a nation heading for serious trouble.

We hope that our leaders and in politics, civil society and religion will see the need to reason together and ensure we don’t jeopardize our country’s peace and security.

Every Gambian who cares about the country and its future cannot ignore the bigotry, casteism, tribalism, religious intolerance, misogynism, narcissism unfolding in our country daily crossing a line with dangerous potential.

Since at the ending of dictatorship, in the throes of the Gambia’s transition to democratic woundedness. Now I find anchor again as we go through the woundedness of Gambia’s politics that have come with so much anger oozing out of unhealed scars, and malignant hate. There are dangers so perfectly reflect the storm brewing over a young nation struggling to hold itself together, but daily surrendering to the savage seduction of propaganda, the spread of malice, the rejection of what is true, and using God to stamp every prejudice and loath for fellow humans.

Gambians should commit themselves to telling the truth, as much as they have the light to see the truth. This is the age of lies, and it is getting worse. We are reaping what we have sewn: debased journalism; an internet where any assertion passes as fact; a disdain for education; the mockery of independent thinking, a pandering to anti-intellectualism; the ossifying of political opinions and letting them pass for “truth;” an embrace of racism ethnic bigotry, xenophobia northernizing, patriarchal privilege political privilege, and brute force as a means of doing politics.

There is no issue in the entire thesaurus of human activity that is not at some level a spiritual issue. That behind all our problems, including the suppression of truth, is a refusal to accept our own complicity in living falsehoods, and our reluctance to become conscious of our connection with everything–every single thing–in the universe. Instead, we imagine ourselves to be superior to other species, to be the gods of creation, the “stewards” of nature with which we can do whatever we please. Within our own species we view ourselves as locked in a contest to see who can amass the most power to manage and manipulate others.

As Gambians, we must commit ourselves specially to challenge religious falsehood where we see it. That opens us up to the criticism of being arrogant, self-righteous, judgmental, and guilty of the same ills which we would point out in others. We must know that and accept that. And if we should prey upon a brother or sister for the speck he or she has in his or eyes while ignoring the log we have in our own, All Gambians should and must be called out. We must submit ourselves to that criticism. Moreover, we should commit ourselves to an honest self-examination and an openness to accept our limitations and our errors to the extent we able to do so. We must be and remain to be held in mutual accountability for facing and telling the truth.

 By any objective analysis, this is a new low and unprecedented in our politics. This is no longer about policy, civility, decency or even temperament. This is a direct threat of violence against a political rival. It is not just against the norms of Gambian politics, it raises a serious question of whether it is against the law.

Our religious and political leaders will undoubtedly issue an explanation; some of their surrogates and followers are already engaged in trying to gloss it over, but once the words are out there they cannot be taken back. That is what inciting violence means.

To anyone who still pretends this is a normal politics, history is watching. And sooner or later the suspects, its verdict will be harsh. Many have tried to do a side-shuffle and issue statements saying they strongly disagree with rhetoric but still support the perpetrators of these divisive hate speeches on social media. That is becoming woefully insufficient. The rhetoric is the politician and their followers.

This religious, tribal, casteism, bigotry and intolerance cannot be treated as just another outrageous moment in our politics.  We will soon know whether anyone who has publicly supported these hate speeches explains how they can continue to be silenced without any condemnation of such hate speeches.

The Gambia is a democratic republic governed by the rule of law. We are an honest, fair and decent people. In trying to come to terms with today’s discouraging development the best is to remind Gambians about inspirational words of one greatest political poet Abraham Lincoln for perspective:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The problems that bedevil the Gambia have not just surfaced from a flawed Constitution but are mostly the results of flawed politicians who get away with impunity. Of course, the flawed rent seekers in oversight bodies employed to protect public interest have failed the integrity test, too.

Let Gambians dialogue but let us not pretend that legal reforms alone are the panacea to all our ills. Let us deal firmly with those who ride roughshod over the laws that we have. We need moral reform as much as legal reform.

Alagi Yorro Jallow