Gambian political activist and social commentator is full of hope that despite the powers and advantages of incumbency, President Yahya Jammeh is beatable in the forthcoming election if change-hungry Gambians unite around a sound strategy. Burama Sanneh presented a paper at a town hall style meeting in Seattle, Washington State, a fortnight ago. Other presenters were Ebrima Dibba, Fatou Camara and Demba Baldeh of Fat Radio Network and Gainako, respectively.
Find below Burama Sanneh’s presentation in full:
My topic of discussion today is the Current State of Affairs of our beloved country. We cannot belabour the topic without making reference to citizens who come together to build a nation. That’s why I will also dwell on Responsibilities of a Citizen, especially in times of need. I will wrap up with what I think is the Way Forward.
Let’s first define who is a citizen.
A citizen is an inhabitant of a village, town or city. A citizen is a native or naturalised person who owes allegiance to a government and entitled to protection from it. In short, a citizen is one who is entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.
Like leadership, citizenship comes with responsibilities that must not be ignored or else law and order becomes the number casualty. These responsibilities include the following:
Support and defend the Constitution
Stay informed of the issues affecting your community or country
Participate in the democratic process
Respect and obey laws
Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others
Participate in your local community
Scrutinise public officials
What is the responsibility of the government?
Essentially to serve the needs of citizens
Protect their lives and property
Ensure that the rule of law is maintained
Protect citizens from external or internal attacks
Build infrastructure or public amenities
Guarantee human rights
But I believe the primary purpose of government is to protect individual rights, freedom, fairness and social justice to allow individuals to use their rights and their freedom to establish a fair and just society based on a sound economy.
What happens when we abdicate our citizenship responsibilities?
We live in a chaotic environment. We lose power, security, peace and justice. Slowly but surely we slide into crisis. For instance, our failure to scrutinise our elected officials or failure to participate in a democratic process deprives us our power. Socrates said it right that those who refuse to participate in election must live with the pains of being governed by their inferior. We have seen how our failure to nurture and guard our democracy has given birth to Dictator Yahya Jammeh, a single soul that hold our country hostage. We have a full blown crisis which must be contained if we want to live in peace instead of in pieces.
Our once Gambia No Problem has quickly degenerated into so many crises. For how long do we have to live with political, security, economic or social crises? The state becomes the very tool of suppression to the extent that we run away from the courts that tilt the law to satisfy Jammeh’s ego. We have been elbowed out of everything Gambian just because we refuse to side with a despot. Even dictator’s followers are not at peace either.
The goal now should be how to manage our crisis
A problem left unsolved generates more problems. It also has the potential to explode but our failure to act wisely will do just that. How do we prevent the Gambia from becoming a Failed State is our most daunting challenge. We can turn the tide when we Unite. We don’t have to unite in our political ideology or philosophy. Unity must be built around strategising, fighting and defeating a Brutal Dictator. We can take our quick-fix-route, which is through election. Some agree on Civil Disobedience or National Uprising. These may be the last resort. Let’s not forget that the Arab Spring quickly turned into a happy Winter for Islamists terrorists who detonate lethal bombs everywhere.
Can Election Defeat Jammeh?
I totally agreed that election can and should defeat Jammeh but it has to start from the people in the diaspora. We have the Barton in our hands. It is as simple as this. First, we need to organize ourselves into community pressure groups and direct our concerns to the only country we call home. We have the constitutional rights to vote but the government’s only excuse has been the necessary funds to realize this. I want to believe that with committed and determined pressure groups, we can seriously and genuinely raise funds within ourselves to force this to its realization. In a community like Seattle where we have close to 3000 voting ages. Every serious and concerned Gambian within that bracket can commit $200 as a cost of paying to realize your voting right. This way, each of us can proudly participate in determining who you choose to govern you. If Seattle can accrue $600,000 and so I believe we have ten to fifteen other states who can do the same. Now if we have 15 x $600,000 plush some generous Gambians and donor contributors, why on earth can’t we force the government through democratic partners to realize this God given right. If this is the situation across America and Europe, how many opposition voters are we looking at now. How about if each of these opposition voters are able to convince at least five voters each in The Gambia to which I have no doubt we can? What will stop us from effecting a change with that number where we are talking about 200,000 Gambians in the diaspora x five each against Jammeh and APRC.
Who will not be proud to say we started this in Seattle and has extended it across the globe and eventually led to a peaceful and democratic change in The Gambia? This is possible and yes we can kick start the project in Seattle. We have all donated friends and relatives at the parties in The Gambia and elsewhere. Who will tell me you cannot commit $200 to stop the timing bomb hanging over our beloved nation, ready to blow off because of our collectives failures? Which opposition party will refuse to listen to the voice of a determined diaspora force ready to take part in deciding who governs them and under what climate? I greet you all and await your questions.
Mr Sanneh, your ideas are very good. If every immigrant contribute $200, Jammeh will be history. But the problem is that we focus too much on wrong things that is spending too much money on name ceremonies, annual parties and many unnecessary organizations. The ideas you suggested here are simple practical solution to our problem. Money is everything we need to succeed in removing the tyrant from the state house. I heard in Seattle alone, last year there was over seventy naming ceremonies and the minimum amount of money spend on each of these naming ceremony is $1000 and while the most expensive one can be more than $5000. If we do the math, we have between $70,000 and $350,000 being spent on naming ceremonies alone. Many of these people have never contributed or attended any demonstration in Seattle or anywhere but when you meet them, they are quick to criticize Jammeh’s human rights records. The selfish ones will tell you that they are not interested in Gambian politics but you can see them criticizing Donald Trump on Facebook. Gambians are their own worst enemy.
The first time I’m onboard with you. We need to put money on the table to save our country from Yaya Jammeh’s brutal Regime, that of your idea make sense, at least for a while, you never know with Maxs?