Dear fellow Gambians,
I have observed a toxic pattern in our political discourse that threatens civility, respect and other necessary values binding us as a People. Our strong political views, affiliations and vociferous criticisms are increasingly taking on personal and tribal dimensions. It is ironical that those who fought in the same trenches and hellholes to oust dictatorship in our country are going after each other in ways that are both disappointing and frightening.
As ordinary people, it is worth noting that politicians see us as expendables, a means to achieving their end. We give them powers to make life and death decisions about us, we aid and abet them to squander our resources, educate their children in exclusive colleges/ universities and send their families in expensive hospitals for treatment and check-ups. We pay these politicians with our sweat but we do not receive the same service. We make them better their lives and achieve their goals for power and prestige while we wallow in abject poverty, deteriorating health care and dwindling education system.
Please remember that we are born into families and tribes before we got to know what politics and politicians are about. We live harmoniously in our multicultural communities. We pray in the same Churches and Mosques. We attend each other’s ceremonies and funerals and share our foods. We help each other on farmlands. We intermarry and build strong community bonds. We are that one strong People before politicians come to our communities.
Where have we gone wrong, Gambians? Why all of a sudden we tend to see each other through our skewed political and tribal lenses? Why we do forget so soon? Friendships, family ties and social cohesions that have endured decades of harmony are thrown on firing lines just because of differences in political affiliations.
Wait, was I not a Mandinka and you were a Wollof when we came together to form this enduring friendship? Was I not a Mandinka and you were a Jolla when we fell in love? When has tribal identity mattered so much?
I think we need to press pause button and do some soul searching. From First Republic thorough this day, have we had much significant changes on our lives? How about the mounting domestic and international debts that will go beyond our lifetime to settle? Are we not buying drugs from pharmacies just opposite public hospitals? What about the status of our farmers? Tell me about our Primary and Secondary school education.
Man, what is in it for us as ordinary people that we should be burning bridges, peddling hatred, bigotry and division in defense of politicians? We can continue to give them latitude to determine our fate but let us not give them the opportunity to change who we are!
Zakaria Kemo Konteh