By Lamin Gano
In a recent meeting in Talinding during his meet the peoples’ tour, President Jammeh warned Gambians against tribalism. In his own words, “I will not accept tribalism anymore in this country and I don’t want to hear this tribal talk again because they are just diversionary, misguiding, and anti-development and totally a result of negative and backward ideological mentality.”
Anyone who knows the Gambia will attest to the fact that the dozen of tribes inhabiting this beautiful country are perhaps the most close-knitted society in the whole world. A classic example of Gambia’s positive tribal culture is that every tribe has two or more tribes that are its cousins. For example the Serrer, Jahanka and some of the Jolas are my tribal cousins as a Fulani person and therefore all forms of jokes and name callings are acceptable between us. For example I can call any Serrer person a slave, label all the Jahnkas as a bunch of lazy people and categorize all the members of the Jarjou families as monkeys and absolutely nothing will come out of it. And the same goes for all the rest of the tribes and even between regions. This is perhaps the greatest conflict prevention and conflict resolution innovation that our fore fathers ever came up with.
So why is Mr. President so worried about tribalism in the Gambia? The truth is that Jammeh is scared of Gambians resorting to tribal politics because that would be the fastest and surest way for him to lose power. Jammeh will be doomed in any election in which Gambians decide to vote along tribal lines. Here is how:
Out of the eight registered opposition parties in the Gambia, the leaders of all the seven parties are either Mandinkas or Fulas. And according to the recent census, more than 30% of the population are Mandinkas while more than 20% are Fulas. Only these two tribes comprise of over 60% of the population.
So Jammeh is clearly worried that the opposition parties could come together to form a coalition and then once they do, their tribes-people could also decide to vote along tribal lines. If that happens, then Jammeh would be out of the State House faster than it takes Usain Bolt to finish a 100m race!!!! However, since Gambians have never played the tribal card in politics and certainly never against each other, there is really no need for Jammeh’s tribal threats. After all there is no law banning tribal politics so how would the state stop Gambians if they chose to vote for the candidates of their tribes anyway?
To conclude, I do hope and pray that our opposition leaders would see the wisdom and urgency of coming together under one leadership to engage Jammeh on politics of maturity and common sense. This would also give Gambians one and only one option/platform to get rid of Jammeh in peace without resorting to any uprisings, violence or trials. Peace, religious tolerance and harmonious co-existence are some of our enviable trademarks which we must preserve at all cost.