While we await the report of the investigation into the violence in Mankamang Kunda involving APRC supporters and villagers, it is important that we speak to all those involved that violence and extremism are not options in a democratic dispensation. The right of all citizens to political participation has been guaranteed by the Constitution hence all Gambians have a right to freely, peaceably and openly engage in political activities without let or hindrance from any quarter.
The unconfirmed reports that APRC supporters were attacked because they were releasing unsavory words and messages against Pres. Barrow and the Government is untenable. Citizens have a right to speak their opinion so long as such speech is not fomenting violence or promoting hate against any tribe or group, race or individual. As an opposition party, APRC has a right to vilify their opponents to the displeasure of those opponents just as those opponents also have a right to vilify the APRC to their satisfaction. Yet all must do so in peace and non-violence.
All Gambians must recognize that political participation goes with freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is the right to express your opinion or ideas that can be sometimes offensive but not necessarily hate or violence. Hence APRC, so long as it is a registered political party has a right to participation and to use messages that could sound unpleasant to supporters of their opponents. But those opponents must not use stones and sticks or any form of violence to respond to APRC. Rather these opponents must in like manner also release ideas and opinions against the APRC in retaliation.
Hence the acts of violence in Mankamang Kunda and Busumbala must be thoroughly investigated so that all those individuals, regardless of party affiliation who perpetrated violence must be held to account. The Gambia Police must exercise utmost professionalism and impartiality in dealing with the matter in a speedy and efficient manner.
The people of Mankamang Kunda and Busumbala and indeed other political parties opposed to APRC must therefore sensitize their members to know that they must have the ability to engage without resorting to violence. It is no excuse to claim that your opponent insulted your party or its leaders hence you must also use violence in retaliation. While all must endeavor to refrain from the use of unnecessarily offensive or profane languages in our political discourse, yet all must also understand that citizens have a right to freedom of expression hence we must all exercise peace and non-violence.
Having said that it is also important to highlight to the members of APRC that this party is no ordinary party. APRC is not like PDOIS or UDP or NRP or PPP among others. This is because APRC was the party in charge of the Gambia Government for 20 odd years during which it inflicted untold suffering on all other political parties and leaders with impunity. Not just that but APRC had indeed inflicted direct and irreparable harm to uncountable citizens while at the same time pillaging national resources and bastardising public wealth. Until today thousands of Gambians remain in physical and psychological incapacity while many more have lost lives and livelihoods because of the corrupt and brutal misrule of that APRC.
Therefore APRC members may not find the need to apologize to Gambians but they certainly must not mock Gambians by seeking to deny their track record and worse of all to try to dishonor the verdict of Gambians on 1 December 2016. The Gambia has decided that Adama Barrow is the elected president and Yaya Jammeh is a former president who must face justice for crimes he committed as president in total contravention of the Constitution. APRC must recognize and accept that it was a party that had indeed harmed the Gambia.
We expect that APRC supporters are Gambians who know that there are uncountable victims of the APRC Tyranny in every village and town of this country. While the party and its supports have a right to political participation yet they must not forget that their party presided over the most detestable period of Gambian history. Hence it is necessary that the leadership of the party enlightens their supporters to exercise decorum and civility in their political activities and not to seek to scratch the wounds of already traumatized citizens because of their atrocious bad governance.
We hope that the investigation into these disturbances will conclude soonest and the report made public while necessary legal action takes place against all perpetrators. In the meantime, it is utterly urgent and necessary that Pres. Barrow speaks to the nation on the need for citizens to exercise their political rights without resort to violence in anyway and promote unity and peace.
For the Gambia, Our Homeland!