By Ousman Jarra
There is no such thing as ultra-nationalist Mandingo.
However, there is a Gambian Nationalism, which means a concept of freedom and fulfillment of people in their land. As a creation of God Almighty, people have endowments they look in each other that become an affinity for building friendship, companionship, alliance and it transcends tribe, family, race, gender or sex. This is a universal phenomenon and the Gambia is not different. We have co-existed as tribes, lived together in unison and harmony and inter-married; these give us the ability to look for big things that bring us together than little things that divide us. Was it perfect? No! But the Gambia is only one of the few countries in Africa where citizens are tolerant and their tribal differences have never been reduced to violence, and we want to keep it that way. Nobody criticizes Yaya Jammeh based on his tribal background. Nevertheless, they do because they object to his brand of politics. YAYA JAMMEH took the country back to 100 years like DAVID DIOP wrote “in those days when civilization kicked us in the face” and “monotonous rhythm of the paternoster drown the howling on the plantations” but in his case he recruits the imams and the clergies as cheerleaders to legitimize his system of government while our people suffer under gross human right abuses in the torture chambers and prison system that he referred to as “MY FIVE STAR HOTEL.”
Moreover, he is hell-bent on destroying all the social fabrics of our society. In so doing, he wants to rally all other tribes behind him fight nobody but the MANDINKAS. More than 40% of our population and that majority of the people taking to the street to exercising their constitutional rights will be MANDINKAS. In addition, the majority of thr young men taking the BACK WAY to Europe in search of greener pastures are likely Mandinkas. Also most of the would-be asylum seekers are going to be Mandinkas. Typical of an unsavory regime on its death throes. A regime that will employ all kinds of tactics to stay afloat, but only the fickle-minded will fall victim to your hate-mongering because an overwhelming number of Gambians do not subscribe be to that. Furthermore, OUSAINOU DARBOE like any other politician does not believe in violence because he knows that it could mean the destruction of everything that we stand for as Gambians. Violence results to great loss of lives as well as turn our people into refugees. That is why at the start of the demonstration; he made it categorically clear to his supporters that they must avoid the use og profanities and to desist from harming anyone when they went out to protest. Darboe believes in negotiations to solving differences when it comes to running the affairs of the STATE. Nonetheless, YAYA is nowhere to be found at the negotiation table. I never wanted to dwell too much on YAYA JAMMEH’S ANTI-MANDINGO RHETHORIC because my background is diverse like any average Gambian. Besides, I don’t want him to “set the rules of engagement.” I learn to wrestle in the JOLA tradition and culture and was fortunate enough to be able to sing their wrestling songs and I adore the wrestlers like NYLON BOY and MONGOLI as a Mandingo boy growing up in Janjanbureh (Georgetown) in the 1970’s.
Furthermore, Armitage High School experiences have solidified my tolerance of people from different backgrounds. Armitage is a microcosm of our greater Gambian society, and I was fortunate to meet and live with students from all corners of our Gambia River Basin for the 5 years I spent at the institution. I have developed friendship with students across all ethnic divide and some of these friendships have blossomed into brotherhood. This is who we are as Gambians. We can debate and sometimes tempers flare up and it may seems like blows are about to be exchanged but at the end of the day we extend our hands of friendship. Yaya Jammeh, we know he will do whatever it takes to stay in power; in the first instance he ventured in RECONCILIATION but little did we know that it was meant to portray his image as a peace-maker in order to further strengthen his grip on power. Since that did not work, he now resorts to demonizing the MANDINKAS.
However, it must be crystally clear to him that Mandinkas, like other tribes, are here to stay in the Gambia. They want equal political rights, maintain their dignity and above all, to be seen as equals and not as separate breed. In conclusion, there is no such thing as ULTRA-NATIONALIST MANDINGO. However, there is A MANDINGO NATIONALISM, just like WOLLOF NATIONALISM, SARAHULLEH NATIONALISM, FULA NATIONALISM, KARONINKA NATIONALISM, AKU NATIONALISM, MANJAGO NATIONALISM, JOLA NATIONALISM and all these Nationalisms in a nutshell mean the concept of freedom and fulfillment of people in their land and does not express in a pride to drive the JOLA MAN into the Sea.
A good point Mr. Jarra. Having toured the country with my father as a headteacher, I fully agree that until dato, the Gambian communities have been living together in tranquility, ensured utmost due respect for other tribes beliefs and ways of doing things. I remember a village in the uplands, where a Sanneh family (were) still palm wine tappers which did not hinder them seeing us as a family.
I remember being invited to an Aku religious festival in banjul, where a good friend of mine from the uplands was residing, a Aku family that enabled him complete his high school studies.
Apropos the topic at hand! the so called mandingo tribalism never even exist. Say they are adventurers or conquerors, I may agree and acknowledge responsibility for the atrocities that (may) have been committed. At the same time, the mandingo have quickly integrated themselves in their new communities. Take the example of Sine and Saloum, where a delicate art of power sharing was crafted to make use of the unique capabilities of the Serere and mandingo by instituting a nobility caste system that intertwined both tribes.
On other side of the river Gambia another destiny was played. In around 1850’s, Jankeh Wally decided, perhaps with the foretelling of a marabout, that he is the last king of Kaabu. Instead of mobilising all the energy in the empire, by unifying the different counties under one umbrella, ruthlessly continued his antagonising policy towards the different power centres that made up of the Kaabu -mainly his mandingo folks. Then when they got tired of his rampages, signaled respectively collided with the Imamate of Futa Jallon to bring down Kaabu in 1867 -at the famous Tourbang Kello battle.
In nutshell, what can be enthused from herein, is that like any other tribe , the mandingos are driven at all times by practicality and strive to adept to new realities. That means they collaborate when the need arise and defend their god-given right to exist, if this is in danger.
“Nationalism”, even by its mildest definition, being the feeling of pride; of loyalty; of allegiance, to a particular entity out of many, is a “NO,NO” for me, as far as tribe or ethnicity is concerned.
When one has a nationalistic feeling towards an entity, then that entity becomes their favoured amongst all. For example, our feeling of nationalism, as Gambians, means that we put Gambia first, before any country, even if we live abroad…Well, most Gambians do, I hope..
Tribal nationalism would follow that you put your tribe first and often, ethnic nationalism is of the extreme type, where individuals feel a sense of superiority over others because of their ethnicity or tribe.
Let’s do away with all attempts to rationalise and legitimise back door tribal or ethnic politics (I am not implying that is what the author is doing)..Gambians’ pride, loyalty, allegiance, patriotism (you name it) should be reserved for only ONE entity : The Gambia…Only then can we build a country where tribe, one of the biggest factor of conflict in the continent, is insignificant in national politics…
I hate to agree with Bax, but I will give him his due. back door tribal or ethnic politics is what is hindering us
You have indeed spot checked the manipulative kanilai KILLER DEVIL; nobody’s selfish aggrandizement greed will ever succeed to destroy Gambia of one fraternity family; tribal hatred towards one another have never been part of Gambian cultural heritage at anytime before; all individual tribes have their unique diverse ways in pride as a people…
Modou Lamin Shynggle Nyassi, (Allah be pleased with him & us all) wasn’t a Mandinka but a Jola, Femi Peters is Aku, Madam Secka current UDP head, Amat Bah, Henry Gomez, OJ, Halifa Sallah, Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang, Mama Kandeh, etc aren’t Mandinka…
Devil yaya jammeh is seeing the writings on the wall; these writings are magnified clearer as day goes by, signalling to the inevitable irreversible doom for the kanilai Fiefdom; & subsequent demise involved which costs DEVIL yaya jammeh some physical & virtual insomnia perpetually whether day or night…
Mandinkas, just like anywhere before, won’t coil to be killed or do a runner; we will defend ourselves when attacked; Late Shynggle told KILLER yaya DEVIL that genuine Gambians of humanity conscience are rather concerned with rules of law restoration which were destroyed since July 1994; this was when Shynggle was kidnaped & being tortured when yaya asked him why he (Shynggle) “…sides with Mandinkas against own tribe?”…
Like in all cases world over, the perpetrator(s) of transgression are never successful…
Long live the Gambia…