In a democracy the conventional wisdom has been that citizens have the right to dissent and express micro-aggression against rogue leaders who violate the constitution. With trust in politicians at an all-time low denying such rights shall only lead to chaos, hence voters around the world have become cynical about politics and its practitioners. Across colleges and university campuses students of all shapes and political persuasion have expressed distaste and contempt against tyranny, and the millionaire and billionaire class holding onto extreme riches at the expense of the majority. Younger people often complain about the trust factor suspicious of traditional politicians who appear to say just about anything to win votes.
A democratic society is one in which peace and security reign for a prosperous people, conducting periodic elections underpinned by free speech. As Winston Churchill enumerates – such is a state in which the principles of justice and fair-play protect the weak against the strong. Over the years, however, African citizens have been manipulated and conditioned to accept the status quo. Despite evidence to the contrary, we are being asked to accept the offerings whilst billions continue to disappear into thin air. This is a daylight robbery of the poor yet to wise-up to the tricks of the trade. Premised on sixty years of failures by successive leaders all across Africa, questions about tax evasion and the maligned connections between money and politics with those lining their pockets onto ill-gotten gains lingers.
In Victorian England during the reign of King John, the British Monarchy exercised ‘absolute power’ in a reign of terror refusing to accept the demands of the masses seeking to establish an accountable system of government based on laws and plurality. The citizens eventually rose led by Langley, the Archbishop of Canterbury, demanding rights over an unelected King forcing the Monarchy into a binding accord – thus the ‘MAGNA CARTA’ was born. The Magna Carta (1215) blueprint established Britain as a nation of laws based on individual rights governed under parliamentary democracy, with the Royal family reduced to bare ceremonial purposes. The lessons of that struggle highlighted the march to democratic change is never easy. Deposing an entrenched dictatorship and a manifestly corrupt ruling class has historically proven hellish, even fatal. Across Africa, Gambians, Ugandans, and Togolese face similar predicament. Regardless of those challenges, the campaign to depose Yaya Jammeh has got to remain resilient, steadfast, but also patient recognising our strength in exploiting his weaknesses. This involves relentless expose of his scandalous regime undermining the leadership at every opportunity.
The power of lobby and vested interest has often led to favourable media coverage as it is with the Daily Observer Newspaper in Banjul. Hardly a day goes by without a favourable headline showcasing the dictator in good stead. Despite overwhelming evidence of banditry seeking to destabilise the Senegambia region orchestrating a potential war within the periphery, the Gambian daily continue to support him. Yaya Jammeh has orchestrated and manipulated the border impasse with Senegal in scoring political points, but it all came crashing down. Most African leaders still exploit the so-called securitization and anti-terror laws as means to strengthen their arbitrary rule, and to satisfy political positioning as exemplified by the ‘Kangaroo Court’ case ‘Darboe and Co’ are being subjected to. In today’s Gambia, the rule of law has been supplanted by the rule of the jungle, with a once democratic process and civilised citizenry masked by anxiety and disillusionment.
The rise social media has effectively allowed for an informed citizenry to organise and analyse free-talking politicians with such rhetoric in political discourse gauging fact from fiction. The last ten or so years has witnessed popular dissent by a disillusioned electorate fed up with lies and deceit from their leaders and acting according by taking to the streets. This scenario unfolded on the streets of Dakar, when the then incumbent, Abdoulie Wada, decided to temper with the constitution extending his term. The masses rose demanding slogans of change eventually deposing the old man. A similar fate was sealed for Blaise Compaore, in Burkina Faso, when the power hungry dictator employed similar tactics in hanging onto power. Ordinary citizens refused as people power defied military tanks and bullets on the bloody streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, overthrowing the 30 year dictatorship. When will African leaders learn? Today, the Gambian people are probably facing the worst dictatorship and repression of anywhere in the world facing major uncertainties. The economy is crumbling with no investors looking its way. Because of ineptitude and bad leadership, the country is drowning in debt according to IMF figures (2016). Across the continent, leaders often make promises of stupid proportions just to win votes knowing full well they are undeliverable. For instance, Yaya Jammeh has promised the poorly educated Gambians that he will transform the tiny west-African state into Singapore in a span of five years. How that is possible in a repressive regime pushing the nation’s economy down a cliff, with half the population malnourished seeking food-aid. Again, how is such achievable in a country in which its youth continue to flee in large numbers through the ‘back-way’ syndrome across the Mediterranean Sea seeking pastures new.
In1989, for example, China became synonymous with the massacre of pro-democracy protestors at Tiananmen Square, serving as a wake-up call to the Communist leadership better start putting the welfare and concern of their citizens foremost if the status quo is to sustain. Fast-forward twenty years, China has managed to uplift over 400 million of its citizens from poverty into the middle class, thus the trend continues – unprecedented human development in history. Dissent is a powerful political tool, thus encouraged. The U.S. Presidential contest for the White House has unearthed similar angry and frustrated voters who reject establishment politicians turning to a man with no political acumen, DONALD TRUMP. Political leaders in the western world have come to learn that power belongs to the people. What are the lessons for Africa in light of the ‘SOCIAL CONTRACT? Our leaders ought to realise that it is far more productive to keep a society content by providing for its needs than it is for a self-interested ruling elite to seek compliance through violence.
In modern 21st Century politics, citizens are no longer willing to accept lose talk and crumbles of the elite to trickle down to their level, instead demanding wholesale changes at the top for leaders with the nation’s interest at heart. As exposed by the Panama Papers, corruption is a global phenomenon which has created an international bourgeoisie exploiting the poor. Sadly, African leaders themselves have contributed to that exploitation against their own people. In true Liberal fashion, the philosopher, John Locke, has called for an overthrow of such corrupt ruling class to be replaced by a legitimate government reflecting the wishes of the majority. A population of barely two million, The Gambia is suffering from a ‘legitimacy deficit’, isolated and abandoned by its partners and allies in the international arena. A country of limitless potential, industrious and friendly people those soft-power diplomatic channels of old ought to be revisited and applied if we are to realise our collective dreams soonest. History teaches us that the long road to freedom has often ridden rougher, simply because anything worth fighting for is difficult. After twenty-two years of diaspora struggle we must remain steadfast and dedicated to the task as a collective unit if one is to exert penetrative impact and hard-blow damage to the Jammeh regime and the criminal cartel sugar-coating it. Please, I urge the various Gambian pro-democracy groups to embrace unity so as to gather international credibility, thus focus on the enemy at hand.
The quasi-democracy in The Gambia has connived in every deceitful way possible to block democratic means of expressing dissent and vexation against the manifestly corrupt government motivated by vested interest and cheap thrills. Banjul is at a critical juncture where its credible politicians are either assassinated, exiled or locked in jail. As campaign season heats up to the December 1st polls, so has extreme rhetoric escalating major human rights violations by the country’s de facto dictator narrowing the democratic space each passing day. The only viable option in changing the status quo and putting a stop to the brutality is not elections – a military takeover is justified in this instance – thus the trial of MONSTER Jammeh in earnest, dead or alive!!!
Mr Gibril Saine