In Wolof there is a saying that ‘reeroo amut ñakkaa wahtaan moo am’. Roughly, this means that there is no such thing as a misunderstanding; rather, there is a lack of communication. In the previous weeks, I’ve repeatedly called on government to engage the Gambian public in dialogue, particularly the section of society seen as opposing the New Regime. You see, Mr President, when a president is voted into office, he becomes the president of the whole nation regardless of who voted for him and who did not.
It becomes his responsibility to serve one and all. Serving one and all means not only providing goods and services equally to all citizens, but providing them (everyone) a sense of security. How to achieve that may be varied and complex but there are a few things that cannot be compromised. Every individual living in the country has a fundamental right to peacefully demonstrate. That is guaranteed by our laws and no one should be deprived of it. To gauge and measure how democratic a government is, look at how it treats its opponents. As I said in an earlier post, the duty of a lion is to protect its pride. Similarly, the first duty of a government is to protect its citizens, even if they are found to be wrong, politically.
So, if the people of the Fonis, and Kanilai in particular, are not happy with the arrangement of posting ECOMIG forces in their area they have every right to show their disagreement to that. It is their home and if they observe something that is somehow inimical to their day to day activities, or progress, then they have a right to point it out. How they do it though is the question we must address to them and the rest of the country. There are laws which have to be adhered to. There are measures of resort in case one is not satisfied with anything the government does. But it has to be understood that no government in the world should – or can afford to – condone subversive actions.
Having said all that, the government should also understand that they have a responsibility to provide security for its people. No matter what, the government or its agents cannot – should not – use lethal force. That would be betraying the trust vested in them. It is unfortunate that a life was lost in the altercation between the people of Kanilai and the ECOMIG forces. The soldiers are trained and brought there to ensure peace, if they resort to using lethal force on the people, then their purpose is defeated. Who are they protecting in that case?
They should have never used life bullets to quell a peaceful demonstration, if it were a peaceful demonstration. But even if there were unruly elements among the demonstrators, the fact that these are trained soldiers should have enabled them use their training to avoid the loss of life. We have lost enough lives to Yahya Jammeh and his thugs already. Why waste more?
It is said that the people of Kanilai – or some of them – are making threats that whoever wants to enforce the freeze of Yahya Jammeh assets will be dealt with. That is rather unfortunate. They cannot use illegal means to stop a legal injunction. There are courts in the country. Let them use legal means and see if anyone will say anything against that. If they think that an injustice has been committed when the assets were frozen, let Yahya Jammeh or those who think so, use the courts to overturn the ruling. Otherwise, let them hold their horses.
What is the way forward? In my humble opinion, dialogue is the key. Let the government engage them and bring to their notice that the State has nothing against them, that it is here for all and sundry, that they are Gambians just like Adama Barrow, Lawyer Darboe or Mai Ahmad Fatty. And that their rights will not be trampled upon. If they are reassured of these rights, they will have no cause to raise the ugly head of subversion.
Also, I think there should be a reshuffle of the distribution of the ECOMIG forces. Let them transfer the Senegalese soldiers to other parts of the country and take the Ghanaians to Foni and Kanilai. This will not be seen as giving in to pressure from the people if Foni; but a master stroke at problem solving. With this, the people if Kanilai will be pacified and yet, the government would achieve its aim. It will then be seen whether the cry of the people of Kanilai is genuine and not subversive. It will also alley fears that the Senegalese want to use the Gambia as a base to attack Casamance. In this way, the government would have killed two birds with one stone.
All said and done, let the government communicate and understand that the people of Foni and Kanilai are themselves victims of Yahya Jammeh. What they need is our support and reassurance.
Peace is sacrosanct. We cannot go anywhere if we don’t have peace.
May God bless the Gambia.
Tha Scribbler Bah
A Concerned Citizen