Gambian Turns 50

Sir Dawda Jawara led The Gambia to independence

By Momodou Ndow

The idea of fighting for Independence, gaining it, and self-rule sounds pretty romantic, right? But as Gambia celebrates 50 years of Independence, I’m not looking at the “romantic” aspect, but the “reality” aspect instead. Where are we after 50 years? That is the question.

Some argue that we should all be patriotic and celebrate Gambia for her beauty and culture in her 50th year of nationhood, and not ask questions or utter unfavorable comments. But is that what celebrating our Independence means? First, let’s look at what Independence means. Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory. Second, what does it mean to be patriotic? Patriotism literally means to have love and devotion for country, which is subject to interpretation, depending on who you ask.

If by “country” you mean nature – rivers, rocks, beaches, majestic mountains, and the like, then that’s not patriotism for me. That belongs to nature and almost every country has a nice collection of rocks, rivers, beaches and mountains or hills. If that is what patriotism means, then Gambia have precious little we can claim and show massive love for, because I have seen prettier out there. And would anyone give up their life for a beach or river? Certainly not!

Patriotism is not a blind trust in anything our leaders tell us or do either, that would constitute a “mindless goose-stepping syndrome.” Waving or posting the flag can be a sign of patriotism, but that’s only outward, so let’s not cheapen the term by suggesting that it’s more than just an outward sigh. I have seen and heard Gambians express a feeling of something we superficially call “patriotism”, so the question then must be asked – what is this thing, anyway? Is it so cheap that and meaningless that a simple gesture of waving or posting a flag makes you patriotic?

In my little book, I subscribe to a patriotism deeply rooted in the reasons we sought Independence and the idea of good self-governance, not culture or scenery. Self-governance must include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are unalienable rights endowed to man by God. The role of government is to protect the peace, our property, and preserve liberties, and doing so with the consent of the people. It’s the right of a free people to resist a government that has become abusive and destructive, as part of the laws of nature. To me, this plays a huge role in the meaning of patriotism.

But my question still remains: Where are we after 50 years of Independence? With that, I now leave you with the National Anthem.

For The Gambia, our homeland
We strive and work and pray,
That all may live in unity,
Freedom and peace each day.
Let justice guide our actions
Towards the common good,
And join our diverse peoples
To prove man’s brotherhood.
We pledge our firm allegiance,
Our promise we renew;
Keep us, great God of nations,
To The Gambia ever true.


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