By Madi Jobarteh
Let’s get to the point. The people claiming that the Barrow Administration is tribalist are in actual fact not tribalist themselves but they are instead being dishonest for a totally different purpose. I will get to that objective soon. I have always argued that tribalism does not exist. What exists is corruption, which is being covered up by what looks like tribalism or nepotism. For example Yaya Jammeh was not a tribalist otherwise how do we explain his close connivance with other individuals from other ethnic groups. During his 22-year carnage, the most prominent exponents of the Babili Mansa Cancer were not primarily Jola men and women, but in fact these were Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Aku, Serer, Sarahuleh and Manjago men and women. List all the key voices and the powerful pillars of AFPRC/APRC, and the Jola are not among the top ten.
Therefore what was happening? On the one hand, Yaya Jammeh consciously misinformed and manipulated his Jola folks to belief in a lie in order to generate support to protect his illegal power and protect his regime. But that was not enough. The purpose of power is to accumulate wealth. Hence on the other hand, he also associated with these other folks from the other tribes for the purpose of wealth accumulation, prestige and privilege, as well as further maintain his power. Thus to keep and maintain both his brutal power and illegal wealth, he used his Jola kinsmen as well as the Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Sarahuleh, Serer, Manjago and Aku elites to divide and rule. These were intellectuals, religious and traditional leaders, youth and women leaders, and business people.
Was Yaya Jammeh tribalist there? No. This is why even when he insulted the Mandinka, one can see these top Mandinka men and women continue to associate with, and defend him because they knew Yaya Jammeh does not hate the Mandinka as a tribe. These elites knew that Yaya and they themselves were merely protecting their diabolical interests, which have nothing to do with tribe. It was all about power, privilege and wealth. Thus on the surface everything looks exactly like tribalism, but the currents underneath were about power, privilege and wealth. After all it was his ministers and party stalwarts who would confide that Yaya Jammeh was a big stupid fool. They knew the man was fake, but all they wanted was the power, privilege and wealth.
When we further analyze, one would see that in the list of his victims, proportionately, the Jola as the fourth largest ethnic group accounts for almost the highest number of victims in terms of those summarily dismissed, arrested, detained, jailed, and killed. What love and respect therefore did he have for the Jola? Nothing. We need to understand here what the underlying currents of ‘tribalism’ are otherwise the argument for or against tribalism places both camps at the same level. No one can win the argument. Such arguments divert the issue and only lead to unnecessary conflict.
Therefore the folks levying the tribalism card against Adama Barrow are doing so not because they hate the Mandinka, but because they have lost the illegal privileges, status and goodies that they enjoyed under Yaya Jammeh. Otherwise, the simplest response to them would be why were they not equally active against Yaya Jammeh when he gave those same positions and many more to his kinsmen? The fact is that these people never cared about what Yaya Jammeh was doing, as they never saw tribalism in Yaya Jammeh. What they saw were privileges, status and goodies. Now that they have lost those unfair privileges, it is logical, to dishonestly vilify this new regime as such.
Africans are not tribalist. This is a misconception perpetuated by primarily Western scholars who were the first to write about the modern political history of Africa based on their own dishonesty and misunderstanding. Then they were joined by a band of miseducated African intellectuals who continue to perpetuate this misnomer. I am ready for any public debate with anyone on the question of tribalism in Africa.
What has been happening in Africa is that the elite, particularly the political class, out of dishonesty and corruption have used sectarian ideas in order to propel themselves to power and then maintain themselves there at any cost. Even when you consider the Rwanda genocide one would see that neighbors in a remote village away from Kigali, without even understanding the nature of governance while living in poverty together, were misused by politicians in Kigali to go to their next door neighbors and hack them to death. It is like if Yaya Jammeh had succeeded in getting Jola folks in Batabut Kantora or Bwiam to hack their Mandinka neighbors. On the surface, it would appear as a tribal war, but deep down it was not a tribal war because the Mandinka and Jola have lived together nicely ever since in Bwiam without ever having such evil thoughts about each other. But because of politicians who want to keep power and wealth by all means, they now manipulate ordinary folks knowing that indeed power is with the people. Unfortunately the masses never get the right political awareness to realize how their power is being use against themselves by themselves through the machinations of the corrupt elite and politicians. The cleavages appeared between them when a politician like Yahya Jammeh emerged to make one tribesmen feel hateful towards another tribesmen.
The truth therefore is this: the people who are trumpeting tribalism and seeking to label Pres. Barrow as such are indeed people who are fighting a class war. They were a class onto themselves. They were part of the oppressive and exploitative class, which wanted to maintain unsuccessfully their immoral grip on power, wealth and privilege. Having lost that class and status, they now resort to misinformation and manipulation for the purpose of bringing down the people’s government. They are merely dishonest and corrupt individuals who have never ever stood for constitutionality and sovereignty of the Gambian people. If they ever did so, it was by default but not be design.
God Bless the Gambia