Tribalism: Constitutional Constipation


           My Marxist/Leninist/Maoist Comrades cum Friends and I had been locked in disagreement. No matter how I marshalled my arguments I could not persuade them that Pan-Africanism was an African Personality to the World Working Class Movement.

Indeed within Pan-Africanism we faced possible unnecessary “ruptures” between so called “Nkrumahists”; “Garveyists; or “Negritudists” “Authenticitists” “Nasserites”; “Sankaraists” and so on with all the “isms” of the era.

How had we formed such radically different opinions and attitudes when the information available to all of us at the same time was the same? My friends and I grew up together for having marched in the same Parade at McCarthy Square on Coronation Day . We militated the same if not similar clubs and movements during our school and youthful days. After University some of us continued to be Atheist Marxists and others including myself became a Deist Marxists.

Our worldviews are shared by others and are widely reflected in the literature, folklore, music, language and other aspects of our situational existence. As social beings we look for labels to easily describing our world views with an “ism”: “Capitalism”; “Socialism”;

“Revisionism”; “Fatalism” “Relativism”; “Ethnocentrism”; “Tribalism” and the suffix list of “isms” neatly stretches capturing and indicating our doctrines, body principles and practices. Suffice it to note that simple opinions grow up to build and strengthen attitudes.

These wonderful descriptive “isms” encapsulate our social, spiritual and psychological realities and package them for easy marketing and sharing with others!

Nationalism and the Rights of Minorities had always been thorny in all countries: USA, Europe (including ex USSR), Asia, Australasia above all in Africa

Paradoxically Chapter 60 of Ancient Manding Empire Constitutional Charter as Declared by Balla Fasekay and Sealed by Soundiata Keita had since 1230 addressed tribal issues as clearly as is being addressed by The UN Charter! Yet we today are faced still with this same gangrene without recourse for our History (eg: Cap 60 Manding Sigi-kang0.

Struggles for power in Africa could become extremely dangerous given the ethnocentric and other chauvinistic affinities linked to the dynamics that cut across inherited colonial border boundaries. Many African elites tend to use their roots and strengths from such tribal, religious and narrow-minded juxtapositions to gain social power assets for ultimate economic gains at all costs.  Indeed African Civil Wars are characterized and flamed by endemic cocktail of: “Tribe, Religion, History, National Flags and Anthems”.

I am not old enough to have seen and known it all but I have lived older and longer than the life expectancy of an average African! All Thanks To GOD unto Him All Decisions.

Post colonial Africa has evidences of conjoint struggles for vengeance by ethnic groups that become igniting ramification of bloody keg powder despite our Laic Constitutions!

The most erroneous of thoughts is to equate and judge a human being by the surname:

One basic question for all of us: “Which Gambian can claim to have consistently belonged to the same tribe over the past three generations of ascendance? Allow me to proposes the following methodology in answer to this question:

1) List the surnames of one’s Father and Mother;

2) List the surnames of each of their Father and Mother;

3) List the surnames of their respective Grand fathers and mothers, continue the process

We will find out that each and all Gambians would have been Wollof, Peul, Manjago, Jola, Mandingo, Serrer, Bainounka, Sarahuleh, Koniagi, Mossi,  Ba-Kongo…Shona…Zulu

Indeed the most illustrious example is given by The Mouride Saint Cleric Sheik Ahmadu Bamba Mbacke whose Blood Half Brother and Companion was Mam Ibra Fatty Mbacke better known as Maam Cherno Mbacke (not to be confounded with Talibe Sheik Ibra Faal).

In this regard let us listen to the preamble of Sheik Ahmadu Bamba in his Book Massalik Al-Jinan in which The Cheikh wrote: “Do not let my condition of a black-man (Tribe) mislead you about the virtue of this work….skin colour (Tribe) cannot be the cause of stupidity”.

I was going through earlier writings of a Gambian sociologist/Historian  a Paper  prepared for the 1983 Second Manding Conference to have been conjointly held by The Dakar Leopold Sedar Senghore Foundation and then Gambia Oral History and Antiquities Division (OHAD).

image-796106ba9d0e074dca2dab9a713a250fe78c488ef7a40b13d7317cd446fa4138-VThe Presentation was entitled: “Reflections and Equations of Naancho- Guelewar-Cheddo Concepts of a Common Geo-Politico-Administrative Zone.

In the above 1983 presentation, He warned against dogmatic identification of tribes by family surnames noting that “Njie” Equates “Keita” Equating to “Jatta” whilst Kijera equals to “Mahanera” in Sarahulleh and “Kajahey’ in Jahanka. The symbiosis brewery of family house-names go on….

Going further in the paper noted that “there exists a genuine table of equating family surnames through which corresponding socio-cultural equations and diverse dimensions could be derived especially when we look into the Sanangu/Sanawyaa/Kaal systems by which seemingly unrelated populations are bound by blood, creed and culture in the region. Thus the Eastern Tilibonka of Mali is related to Badibounka; the latter to to the Jarra; the latter to the Niominka Serrer, the latter to Jolla; the latter to the Peul; the latter to the Gabunka; the latter to the Kombonka what a vicious cycle of blood creed relationships!

Has it ever occurred to us that a certain prominent Jawara said to be a Mondingo has a Jola maternal link in the person of Lady Inna Sambou)?

Has it occurred to us that a “Jawara” can be Mandingo, Jahanka or a Sarahulleh, that “Sagnia/Sanyang’ could be a Jola and/or Mandingo depending; that a “Jatta” could be a Mandingo or Jola; that a “Saidy” could be Mandingo, Jola, Peul: Saidy-Bah, Saidy-Khan, Saidy- Liegh, Saidy Hydara,Saidykhan.

Likewise a Fatty could be Mandingo Kabunka Animist “Maanna” or even a Fatty-Hydara of Holy Arabian Clergy by extension; depending on prevailing circumstances!

What two extremes “Fatty Manna to Fatty Hydara”

As proven above no single African has consistently belonged to the same tribe in three generations of one’s Paternal and Maternal Family Tree.

The Origin of The Family, Private Property and The State depicts the following basic ladder of Universal Human Social History:

  • The Primitive Horde
  • The Family
  • The Clan (characterized by Military Democracy)
  • The Tribe
  • With the arrival of The State with all its variances, stages, modes of production and socio-economic formations leading to Feudalism, Kingdom, Empire.……..

Going by the above we soon find that West Africa; indeed the whole of Africa by and large had gone beyound the tribe stages of the human ladder and had leaped into the the Empire and Kingdom Stages well before contacts with Europe; for example; Ghana Empire (III – XI Centuries), Tekrur (XII-XIII Centuries) Manding Empire (XIII-XVI) including Songhai..; and the Jollof Kingdoms (XVII-IX), the Fula Theocratic Federations (1727)…..

 It is therefore unscientific, historical mendacity and humanly criminal to want us revert to tribalism after leaping through this phase centuries ago!

Whichever way: At Independence Our Senior Citizens “Strived, Worked, Prayed and Pledged Our Firm Allegiances” against Ethnocentric Constitutional Constipation as evidenced in our National Hymn; with our multi-colored Flag to represent our common aspirations as a People.

The Ideological Family Should and Must Give Way To Religious, Biological and Ideological Families.




  1. Great piece of history . one thing for sure we need to study the past if are to define the future. Thanks your contribution.

  2. A comprehensive piece, a very rational argument. Thank you.

  3. The unknown author of this piece has done a great service for our country and Africa as a whole. It all goes to show that “tribe has no place and significance in our today’s world. What we have are opportunist politicians who themselves are enmeshed with different wives from different ethno linguistic groups perpetuating tribal sentiment to woo unsuspecting citizens to side with them for their selfish interest and protection. And this applies to both ruling party and opposition when they no longer have faith that their political programmes are convincing enough to the electorate as to win them support.
    Jammeh has the audacity to utter such a backward concept because he knew that there are equally other politicians like him who would want to jump and condemn him by haulling insults and ‘what have you’ against people they deem to be from the same ethno linguistic group as him, which will help to cloud the atmosphere to confuse issues at the fore.
    This is why we as progressives should stick to the profound works of our mentors as to show the lack of merit in propagating ethno linguistic sentiments in this day and age when our countries have proclaimed themselves as Republics 50 or so years ago. China has progressed from backwardness by going through a Cultural Revolution that discards all wrong notions from the minds of the citizenry and make them to focus on Nationalism instead.
    This is a great piece of work and i applaud you to continue the good job.

    • Yero Ba, you have a very dangerous and bigotry mindset. So you are claiming that Gambians who married wives from different tribes are political opportunists. So Darboe and JAWARA are tribal political opportunists who flame tribalism to gain support according to your ignorant diatribe. You are indeed sick and ignorant bigot. So Halifa and Jammeh are not qualified in your stupid diatribe because one married in his tribe and the other married outside The Gambia in the case of the dictator. In fact, according to your substandard thinking, Jammeh is not a tribalist leader. What has individual love or marital relationship got to do with his political beliefs? If I go by your ignorant belief then why Jammeh failed to marry Mandinka woman since he can gain more support from the largest tribe in The Gambia. You will continue to make your shameless and stupid outlandish claim which every one knows about you. You are a tribalist and bigotry individual with no moral compass. You lied that your wife is a Mandinka but I believe you have no respect for your so-called in-laws as manifested in your behavior. You are a despicable human being who needs to be educated.

  4. Yerro, you seem to get the spirit of this above writing wrong. I read between your lines an effort to misconstrue the message embedded in this piece. Darboe having wifes from different tribes is in itself a nationalistic approach to melt the diverse people’s together not contrary. For he cannot decide which of his children are a better Gambian simply on the basis of the ethnic origin of their mothers. The same is true for Jawara even if I find his overstaying in power being among factors culminating in today’s abyss.

    It is totally misleading to justify the tribal tirade of the so called “babili mansa” (a mandinka title by the way) against the mandinka, because you entertain an unsettled grudge against politicians of mandinka origin.

    As the author maintained, non of us can present our origin entirely on one tribe. As Hamat Bah also reiterates again, we are all related through intermarriage or kind. Therefore the only acceptable fray into this debate, must be an unreservedly condemnation of the bigotry of one man trying to cling onto power. Mandinkas are his target simply because they won’t accept him as a self-proclaimed king of Gambia or at least in his narrow mindset think this tribe is the obstacle to his ultimate craving for absolute power -with unreserved applaus from all the people.

    I am prepared to continue this debate. We have the Christian community facing extinction and the reason for that is that one man crave to rule and avenge imagined wrongs meted to his ethnic group. I have said it many times ago , that the intellectuals taking consolation in the mandinka bashing are in fact endangering the very existence of the country as we wish to have it. The Christians community now face the consequences of such an appeasement.

    Gbagbo tried to extinct the northern Ivorians on the basis of their ethnic origin and he failed. To wipe out the mandinkas from the Gambia will require a gigantic logistical undertaking not at hand and wishful thinking just like the eradication of the Tutsis in Rwanda remains a fantasy.

    We will do our country a great service if we condemn tribal bigotry and stop condoning hate speech.

    • Them @Yerro and co. are tribalist elements literally in Jammeh’s elite, suppressing their ill will with booga booga so-called intellect and think Gambians won’t understand. There are no dangerous hypocrites like them. Tribalists like @Yerro cannot be considered educated people much more intellectuals. He seems well benighted with hate and abstruse sentiments in his scribbling hypocrisy.
      He goes like the ‘unknown author’ of this piece bababababa………………..

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