By Solo Demba (LLM, LLB.RMA, RN)
Fellow Gambians, I take the opportunity to express my solidarity with you in exercise of your democratic and constitutional rights.The graceful collapse of the Second Republic and the rise of unstoppable people’s power require us to rethink about our responsibility seriously.In doing so, we must take bold steps that would produce, ‘collective good’ for the society as opposed to steps that protects special interests of few.
We must nurture fundamental norms such as respect for human rights, rule of law, and democracy. Going forward, we need every tool in the tool box to massage souls; learn to work together and amend institutional failures that had stifled development and advancement of democracy in our country for decades. Although the genesis of these failings predate the Second Republic, there have been no systemic efforts to correct these institution alimbalances so as to regulate the organized power of the state.
In my view, such inaction was designed to suppress the will of ordinary people.Turning things around requires profound of sense of dedication, resilient with strong mind-set on nation building efforts similar to the one that had galvanized European powers to embark on self-serving mission. I believe that we can propel our country to the height of the world to fulfill every Gambians’ dream, indeed, such is achievable with serious commitments. While the state has sovereign power to govern its people, this power can only be legitimized through a creditable democratic process.
Sovereign states are supposed to be the servants of the people they serve. It is incumbent on states to enable citizens to live purposeful life by developing the state’s economic capabilities, so as effective democratic institutions. It follows that the sources of state’s power emanated from the will of the people. Such power must not be silenced to allow the state to evade its fundamental obligations as the governor.
In this sense, democracy allows effective implementation of social contracts in which the state is obliged under international law to protect the security and well-being of its people. The responsibility to protect forms the normative foundations of international law. The OAU and the ECOWAS are both principal proponents of such international norms, in their quests to promote good governance they espouse the practice of genuine democracy and protection of human rights.
We cannot be silenced and allow the future of our country to be defined by human rights violations, while impunity prevails. The same proposition was articulated by Nelson Mandela as he says ‘Africa has a right and a duty to intervene to root out tyranny…we cannot abuse the concept of national sovereignty to deny the rest of the continent the right and duty to intervene when behind those sovereign boundaries, people are being slaughtered to protect tyranny.’
I believed we have an important role to play avert such heinous practice. Notably, the eyes of noble Africans institutions are fixed on Gambia to determine whether the informed choice of the people will prevail.
Therefore, the Coalition must exercise its mandate judiciously to serve the interest of the country. Make no mistake; I believe Gambians have the right mind-set to remove any government that neglects the needs of the country.
The other point is that as The Gambia is a signatory to most international instruments, it is subjectable to international rule of law. Therefore, it is right to say human rights violations may engender international intervention either politically or economically. For example, the intervention in Ivory Coast was necessary to protect democracy and the life of ordinary Ivoirians. However,while the state has the overall responsibility to protect human rights, citizens are also required to respect the laws of the land as every human right carries a responsibility, no right is given without a corresponding obligation.
Undoubtedly, the security of the people cannot be preserved in the midst of chaos and confusion, therefore, I urge all Gambians to exercise their constitutional rights with sense of responsibility. It is our responsibility to prevent our country from descending in Anarchy and protect the rights of minorities as democracy does mean majority views must always prevail.
Indeed, politics can be conducted in ways which promote democracy, if divergent groups are allowed to express their views freely and pursue common goals that align with their political ideologies. Political values such as justice, equality, liberty, and self-determination must be rooted in the practice of politicians if they are to earn the respect of the Gambians. Indeed, failure to embrace or flagrant disregard of these values call into question the morality and fitness to practice of politicians.
More importantly as rightly stated by the Philosopher Kant, ‘Without man and his potential for moral progress, the whole of reality would be a mere wilderness, a thing in vain, and have no final purpose”. What seems also untenable is to deploy divisive politics in order to weaken the collective power of the people against the interest of the country. Such practices are not only in imicalto social integration but contrary to democracy. It has become a common knowledge that Gambian politicians have always tried to divide us along ethnic and tribal lines to maintain their grips on power.They articulated the notion that we are from different tribes, so we cannot coexist harmoniously.
Clearly, this proposition is not only dangerous, but also disingenuous as we are all equal. It is axiomatic as Gambians we have been living together as brothers and sisters for centuries in our communities. Our efforts and talents must be employed to build up the institutions that faithfully work to meet the aspirations and aims of ordinary Gambians. We must reject divisive politics; if we focus on what on what we have in common to foster social cohesion. I have no doubt in my mind that we have already taken bold steps towards this direction, albeit there are challenges we face in a globalized world. I have faith in the decency of Gambians to put aside ethnic divisions and work together to create and maintain a society which is inclusive and transparent. If we are brave enough to think outside of The Gambia, we soon come to realize that the misery that afflicts many of the countries in Africa and elsewhere are a product of lack of respect for the principles of democracy, rule of law and equality of opportunities.
It is onus on the Executive, the Legislative and Judiciary to nurture such fundamental principles and present The Gambia as a modern sovereign state. State power must be re-balanced by institutional reforms. The independent of the judiciary must be sine qua non (absolutely necessary). Rights such as freedom of expression and free press must be embedded in our constitution to allow democracy to thrive. Parliamentarians must be able to hold the executive accountable to the people. Turning our backs on such fundamentals is a perilous path that would insulate uncertainty and chaos. Furthermore, this may exacerbate the very economic problems of our homeland because legal uncertainty has dangerous ramifications for investment.
We must flatly reject the notion that we are different, and we cannot work together to address our shared challenges. We must work to nature the initiative drive in every Gambian to aim high with the view to making a significant contribution to nation building in humanities, science, technology, etc. That vision must empower all citizens of the land (Akus, Fullas, Jahankas, Jollas, Mandinkas, Manjagos, Sarahulehs, Sererehs, Wollofs, etc.) the opportunity to aim for the highest office in the land because we can all identify what is good and are capable for doing good.
In this age of interconnected worlds, we cannot help but notice that nations that encourage their citizens, of diverse social and cultural backgrounds, to work together have made huge strides in the right direction – it is no wonder that such countries continue to suck the life out of The Gambia and other African countries that stifle innovation and the freedoms of its citizens. If we cultivate the will to work together, we can reverse this downward trend and I challenge you to that task.
Thank you and God bless you all