Abolish Tribes And Tribalism: A Challenge Of Our History

“Goam bunyudul lal du werr muk” – An untreated wound will never heal!

Ousainou MbengaBy Ousainou Mbenga

In my humble view, the treatment must begin from a historical analysis of how this wound was inflicted on us in order to establish the appropriate treatment and save subsequent generations from living with this “political blind spot” of tribe and tribalism.

As the pressure of the resistance against the AFPRC –APRC mounts, with Jammeh’s back unquestionably against the wall, it is most disheartening to see the resurgence of the monstrous head of “tribalism”, quietly condoned by the crippled spent–force politicians but aggressively championed online by the new gang of “aspiring predatory politicians” – predominantly pseudo – intellectuals, who have nothing to offer us, but to drag us into the swamps of ignorance. After five decades of “independence” with nothing to show for; the general saying in the Gambia is that: “karanlal leh yeh nying banko teenya” –“the intellectuals destroyed this country”. In alliance with the impotent elite, this tribe driven “paper tigers” have always undermined our national collective efforts for their own narrow selfish interests.

The down trodden masses of our beloved Gambia are aware of this game and history of tribal politics. If the truth be told; no so-called tribe is doing well in that hell-hole of a country – Gambia. The vast majority of our people have always caught hell, never mind your blind tribal affiliation. We must resist this calculated opportunism equally as we resist Jammeh’s tyranny.

Contrary to world view, the abolition of slavery was not out of the goodness of the white abolitionists – the “white man’s burden” – rather this savage and barbaric attack on Africa was no longer tenable for Europe, America and all their beneficiaries the world over. Persistently down played in the “conqueror’s narrative”, the frequent and massive slave rebellions along the Atlantic, in the “Americas” and the Caribbean had become costly in lives and resources.  We need to coin a word to describe that barbaric assault on Africa and African people. A “holocaust” is unfitting.

The great Cheikh Anta Diop wrote that “slavery re-tribalized Africa”. That foul social system mischaracterized as the “slave trade”; a “trade” in which  Africa never received anything in return as expected in “trading”; rather it was the starting point of our unhappiness as an African people and the emergence and development of what we now know as Europe and all her offspring.

From Amilcar Cabral’s point of view, “the material basis for the “tribal” system no longer existed in Africa”. So, why is “tribe” still lingering in our consciousness? Cabral further argued that its “superstructure” was supported by colonialism. The historical facts point to colonialism as the primary source for the continuing survival of “tribes” into the present day neocolonial era. Because the “slave trade” wounded Africa the most, we became the most vulnerable society to succumb to tribal divisions.


After dismembering Africa and African people from each other and our resources, we were relegated to TRIBES, never to remember our communal and peaceful existence prior to the encounter with the “warring tribes” of what became Europe and the roving Arab warriors. Again, Diop questioned, was this “Civilization or barbarism? A people dismembered, without economic power, ultimately resort to “tribal politics”, the wrong solution to our economic powerlessness.

During the grandeur of Khemet (Egypt) and its subsequent offsprings, Ghana, Mali and Songhai empires, our social consciousness was so advanced that the practices of “tribalism” had no breeding ground to survive, moreover to wreak havoc.

It is on this basis of our historic resistance against slavery that we should vigorously resist and overturn our untenable affiliations with tribes and the practices of “tribalism”. Just as slavery eroded our sense of sameness as one people; so does tribes and tribalism continue to hinder all our efforts to build an African nation, the only guarantee to our prosperity. Tribes and tribalism have never done us any good and never will but continue to insult our collective – national intelligence.

First, tribe and tribalism makes no biological sense; it is not a genetic expression as in blood type, but a social creation that is held hostage in the “lower brain” via language (a medium of communication) to organize communities and effectively serve the needs of the people. Once released from the lower brain, “tribalism” will wither away and give way to a more revolutionary nation that will champion our collective interest as Africans.

We made up all these backward beliefs of “tribes”, hence the practice of tribalism we continue to hold on to blindly. Brothers and sisters, it’s a make–belief world of “tribes”. And we can unmake, abolish and eradicate these beliefs and realize our true commonality as African people. Once we attain the social consciousness above TRIBES, only then can we create a viable economic base and wield political power for generations to come. To anchor this point, we all know that the issue of tribes and tribalism reach their most inflammatory point during ELECTIONS, the most violent period in Africa and other oppressed countries. Why is that? Our unscrupulous politicians of all stripes in alliance with our pseudo- intellectuals will never attempt to solve our problems outside of the sham elections that give the illusions of participating in the process for a life worthy of living.

Can any “tribalist” explain how he or she became a Wollof, Mandinka, Kikuyu, Yoruba or Bamileke other than speaking the language associated with the “tribe”? Language should be the basis of our relationship not tribe and tribalism.

Secondly, tribalism makes no philosophical sense because it betrays the rational principles of humans’ ability to rise above ignorance; the basis for the senseless violence manifested in “tribal conflicts”. Lastly, tribalism only seems to make “political sense” because of its potential exploits by the predatory politicians who subsist on “tribal” ignorance to maintain the status quo for their narrow selfish interests. Those who have nothing to offer us, always resort to mean-spirited ignorance to sabotage reasoning.

If tribe is a common occurrence in human societies, why is it extinct in some societies, particularly European societies but continues to wreak havoc in enslaved and oppressed countries, particularly in Africa? Slavery united all of Europe and the United States of America for the rape, plunder and pillage against Africa and consequently dismembered Africa into  non-viable “tribalist nations”.  Therefore, our freedom and liberation will never come to fruition when we continue to speak in tribal interests as oppose to our national interests.

Only a thinking nation can see the benefits of unity and the eradication of the senseless imagined “tribal superiority or inferiority”. These attitudes must be confronted whenever and wherever they surface.

All keen observers must by now see the collective inroads we are making in the struggle to uproot the Jammeh regime and its neocolonial infrastructure. Therefore, we who are clear on what is to be done must never sweep anything under the rug; rather we should come up with solutions in preparation for a post Jammeh society. We must create the conditions to heighten our social, political and economic consciousness. Yes, the struggle continues but against what?

Let’s uproot all divisive behaviors in our midst. This is our own internal battle; we must defeat this enemy in order to win the final battle.  The roles have changed, Yahya is now on the defensive and our forces of victory are on the offensive. We must seize the time!

Lastly, we must put into practice Cabral’s prophetic teaching that, the African intellectual must “commit class suicide” to genuinely join the masses in transforming our society for prosperity. Likewise, there must be a campaign to “commit tribe suicide” in the interest of national unity and a return to the SOURCE of our commonality. The cultural unity of black Africa has been established on irrefutable historical facts. And Cheikh Anta Diop, again notes that three factors make up the collective personality of a people: historical factor, linguistic factor and psychological factor. He said the historic factor is the cultural cement which unites the disparate elements of a people to make a whole. Slavery disrupted our historical continuity and relegated us to a population of tribes.  Our quest is to seek the “unifying elements of our languages” not the divisive elements of TRIBES and tribalism.

Long Live SeneGambia! One Africa! One Nation!  



  1. Since when the Tribalism exisit in the Gambia? Can Ousainou Mbenga identify any Gambian who has been victimized by another tribe because he/she was different than him/her? In the Gambia, the tribes are marrying each other’s daughters centuries, what else do you expect them to do? Let’s just focus on our main objectives, which is to quickly get rid of Yaya Jammeh and move on to our private lives. If you are not tribalist and i am not tribalist, tell me now, who is tribalist??, it is all part of manipulation, nothing more nothing less. May the Almighty God guide us to the right path…

  2. Lafia Touray la Manju

    Jobe, Ousainu mbenga is a grumpy grandi. These are all a response to Lamin j Darboe’s Criticism of the Wolof controlled CORDEG. In a nutshell, a further manifestation of the culture of mandinka bullying. They think a mandinka is not entitle to an opinion.

  3. Sul Ceesay (Atlanta)

    Well Said Ous Mbenga. But the question arises, what would you replace tribe with? You have started the eloquent conversation with a language, in beautiful wollof, surely you are speaking a language that is not spoken by all Gambians..hence, let people enjoy their experiences and share with others. There will always be dislikes, if we have strong laws, those dislikes will yield nothing. In America there dislikes, etc, but people know there is a law to protect all.

  4. Koto I hope your words match with your actions. I don’t have any problem with people loving themselves and that majority must be respected. That is our Gambian problem. Because of Jammeh, Mandinkas have been punched left and right, after all, they did not enjoy during Pa’s time. That is the unfortunate part of it all.

  5. Ous Mbenga fail to cite any instances of tribalism in the Gambia or call names of those so-called intellectuals and politicians engaged in tribalism, he should be man enough to call names rather than repeating empty rhetoric end up himself fanning ethnic tensions. Any time certain people are put to task this delusional Ous Mbenga will come with his theories. My brother are you among the dishonest elite and tribalist? We are in a free society people will express their opinions.

  6. Please Ous, you and others should come out plain and tell the families of Mahawa and Saul Ndow what happened to them. It was during your unprofessional and greedy adventures that you put these two bread winners of their respective families in trouble. Only for greedy fools to sit and forget them. Not even a public statement, to launch formal complains to the human rights defenders…

  7. You have exposed your own ignorance. You have tribes everywhere. Allah mentions it in the Quran that people have been made differently so they can recognize each other. Go and do your research before you rant endlessly.

  8. With due respect, next time do not misunderstand Cheikh Anta Diop.

  9. Linga don soko bange …

  10. Lafia Touray la Manju

    Mann deh mandinka la teh Baku na Sii. If you are not proud of your identity, that is not my problem.


  11. I am also a proud Hal Pular. Tribe is not only about language Mr. Mbenga. Values and cultures shape and make tribes unique. How can you be proud of yours and at the same time fool us? Duma nanku!