Friday, April 12, 2024

For the Gambia: Reflections On Independence 

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Muhammad my son,

It is February 18, 2024, and I am seated right here at the Presidential Daise at the very place where the Kingdom of Great Britain formally handed over to our beloved country our independence as a nation-state.

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In the words of the Holy Bible, we sing in prayer: “This is the day that the Lord has made; we shall rejoice and be glad in it!”

Indeed the situation is not much different from the country you live in which also had to break free from the same colonial master with perhaps the greatest words ever penned by mortal man: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Certainly, this is a momentous occasion and a time worthy of reflection. What better way to reflect on this day and its significance than to focus on our National Anthem, that sublime prayer that resonates with the very scrolls of the most sacred scriptures.

Indeed we commence our anthem with “For The Gambia, our homeland”; and surely it is a concept well etched in spiritual injunction. In Surah Balad Allah opens the chapter by taking an oath, making reference to the birthplace of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad ((SAWS): “I swear by this city, and you are a free-born of this city”.

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Verily citizenship is not a mean concept; and clearly the foregoing verses put a case for the importance of citizenship and places of birth: our homeland.

Moving on to the next set of words “We strive and work and pray”: we know that Allah commands us to “Work, and God will surely see your work, and His Messenger” as promulgated in verse 105 of Surah Tawbah.

On prayer, there is no better injunction than what Allah tells us in Surah Ghafir, verse 60: “And your Lord says: Call upon Me, I will answer you”. A similar verse addresses us in Jeremiah 29:12 of the Holy Bible: “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” One must add here that as Gambians we are a bit too long on prayer and short on work. We certainly need to fine-tune that balance; for the Wolof prover is sound: ‘Yaala Yaala bei as toll” (pray to God but till your land”

The next verse is “that all may live in unity, freedom and peace each day.” In Surah Ali Imran in verse 103 instructs us “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided”.

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Indeed we are free as individuals and that is a divine gift; yet, without unity, our collective freedom is impaired as we become vulnerable to internal and external aggression. Such an attitude can deprive us of our most precious gift, peace. Therefore, we must preserve this priceless asset, which shall be the salutation of the most successful of all species as they enter paradise: “Peace!” – a word (of salutation) from a Lord Most Merciful!” (Surah Yaseen verse 58).

And now goes right in front of me detachments of the Gambia’s armed forces matching the rhythm of the army band in unison: Gambians from different tribes and religious orientations, marching in sync with a single purpose: the success of Team Gambia.

Muhammad,

It is exactly one week since I last penned a line in this epistle. I had to stop because the Independence parade had come to an end and we had to go to State House for lunch. I have not had the time to write a word since then. But here I am today Sunday, February 25 at the Buffer Zone in Talinding where the ruling NPP has converged to celebrate the African Peace Award recently conferred on President Barrow.

It is interesting that the last word I wrote about was peace, and today we sit here celebrating peace.

And now to the next one which is central to our existence as a Nation: “Let justice guide our actions towards the common good.” It reminds me of a profound central verse in the Holy Quran often quoted by Imams during their Friday sermons: ”God commands justice and fair dealing…” [Quran, 16:90]. We cannot continue to exist as a nation if we do not practice the principles of justice.

In the Holy Bible, as I was taught by the reverend Father David Jarjue when I did my Bible studies at St Peters High School, the twin books Amos and Hosea were focused on social justice. Prophet Amos instructs: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos, 5:24).

Without justice, the human race cannot continue to exist and the very instrument that defines us as a nation, the Constitution, is the cardinal instrument of justice.

And this brings to mind the need for environmental justice and peace. This is the only way we can preserve our common good.

The next verse leads us to the one thing that we are known for as a nation: peaceful coexistence and tolerance.

“And join our diverse peoples to prove man’s brotherhood.” Here in this our oasis of peace and tranquillity, tribe and religion have not caused civil strife, by the Grace of God. We may have witnessed some trifling annoyances from a few fringe elements, but more than any country on planet Earth, The Gambia reigns supreme as the headquarters of peaceful coexistence and tolerance.

A few individuals and groups may be seeking funds here and there to push some conference agenda for inter-faith dialogue and tribal harmony, and they have their rights to their hustle; but regarding these matters, The Gambia remains; and shall continue to remain trouble-free, inshaa Allah.

And now, my son, shall we not “pledge our firm allegiance” to our beloved motherland? Shall we not “renew our promise” to uphold all the foregoing principles so profoundly and succinctly expounded in our national prayer?

And now let us pray, my good son, as stated in the final lines of our National Anthem:

“Keep us, great God of Nations, to The Gambia, ever true.”

Momodou Sabally

Former Presidential Affairs Minister, author, economist, and motivational speaker.

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