Motto: Power to the People
Statement of Purpose
Dear Gambians and Friends of The Gambia,
At this crucial point in our country’s history, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive rethinking and a radical transformation of our national political culture. To carry out this important task of re-thinking and transforming our political culture, there is the need for a national movement of well-meaning and like-minded Gambians designed to bring about comprehensive, meaningful and lasting change to our country. For this reason, we hereby announce the formation of the New Gambia Movement (New Gambia) with the primary objective of transforming The Gambia into a politically enlightened and empowered Family Nation in which the people are the parents, the government, the children.
After 30 years of the First Republic and 22 years of a banal dictatorship, The Gambia remains mired in the irreconcilable contradictions of the colonial legacy. The colonial encounter brought a new political system (the nation state) and transposed it upon our traditional political culture. At independence in 1965, a western parliamentary system was superimposed on our traditional African perceptions and understandings of the meanings of government and leadership. Over 50 years of independence, our two governments have done nothing to correct this anomaly. The overriding consequence is that most Gambians remain politically disempowered and unaware of the crucially important differences between constitutional authority and autocratic rule of the colonial and precolonial sort. Constitutional presidents are understood to be all-powerful rulers or kings – mansa, burr, lamdo, and constitutional governments are wrongly called mansa kunda, ngurr, and laamu. These political misnomers, used over and above their simple linguistic inferences, carry corruption-enhancing and power-abusing connotations that are exploited by people in power for their own selfish interests and to the detriment of the Gambian people.
This persisting anomaly between the political reality of the constitutional nation state system and traditional African political perceptions has enabled unscrupulous politicians and dictators to pull the wool over our peoples’ eyes and exploit and oppress them with total impunity. Rather than correct this anomaly through comprehensive and rigorous constitutional education and political enlightenment, the two governments we have had since independence have tended to perpetuate the idea that they are actual mansayas (kingships) of the colonial and precolonial sort, with the brutal ruler of the just ousted dictatorship going so far as to assume the preposterous title of Babili Mansa, literally casting himself as a king rather than a constitutional head of state. Since the nation state and constitutional governance are here to stay, we feel that our best starting point towards the full empowerment of the Gambian people is to launch a Mental Revolution designed to correct the damaging anomaly between our political institutions and our political beliefs; and going forward, to help redefine the concept of public service for the greater good of the people. We intend to help transform The Gambia into a nation of enlightened and empowered citizens who will be able to democratically exert control over their leaders, and who will never allow themselves to be marginalized, oppressed, or denied their rights as Gambians and human beings with certain inalienable rights. Political power rightfully belongs to the people. But the people can only enjoy and exercise that power if they are adequately knowledgeable in key aspects of the political doctrines and institutions affecting their lives.
The New Gambia Movement believes that Africa in general and Gambia in particular is mired in poverty and needless civil crises largely because from the time we attained independence, our governments have neglected our most precious resources – our people and their minds. They have failed to understand or refused to accept the reality that states (governments) do not build nations; that it is nations (people) that build states. Gambians need to fully understand that and be able to insist that their government does not have power over them beyond the regulated authority necessary to ensure an orderly, just, and law-abiding social environment. Gambians need to understand and be able to insist that true political power belongs to them, the people, for without the people, there can be no government. We can imagine a people without a government, but we cannot imagine a government without a people. The people are the reason the government exists. It is therefore a cruel paradox that governments whose existence cannot be imagined without the people would turn around and reduce the people into powerless and oppressed nonentities without any agency to assume their rightful status in society. The insincerity of many African governments manifests glaringly in their determination to snuff out the light of the people’s minds through censorship and other repressive laws, acts of naked brutality, emasculated judiciaries, and paper tiger parliaments accountable to the government rather than the people without whom they cannot exist. While the doctrine of separation of powers is outlined in our constitution, it has little bearing on the reality of how politics is conducted in practice. The New Gambia Movement is determined to seriously address this tragic and crippling situation through a rigorous and sustained national political education and popular empowerment campaign.
The New Gambia Movement places our human and intellectual resources and energies at the forefront of our national project, with a view to build popular political capacity and deliver sustained benefits to the nation. We are strongly convinced that as long as the people of a country remain unaware of and therefore unable to fully exercise their legitimate power over their government, they will remain vulnerable to the machinations of unscrupulous politicians and tin pot despots like the one we have suffered for the last 22 years. We believe that development is not necessarily about building infrastructures, though we certainly appreciate the importance of infrastructure as part of development. We believe that development is more about building minds and empowering people. Develop the people and the people will develop their country. Ideas are the building blocks of human progress and the more a country utilizes the ideas and intellectual resources of its people, the more that country advances. All inventions and all innovations, however revolutionary, however great, however transformative come from the minds of human beings. Indeed, it is impossible to think of any form of invention or scientific advancement that is not the product of the human mind. Yet in Africa and in The Gambia in particular, the light of human minds and intelligence is snuffed out with reckless abandon. Ideas with the potential to enhance the human condition are suppressed or ignored simply because they go against the selfish interests of governments. The result has been a tragic brain drain. Our brilliant minds are driven off into exile or choose to relocate to distant lands where their knowledge and skills are put to use in the service of societies only too happy to increase their own fund of intellectual resources. Meanwhile, our national mind is starved, our creativity is stifled and our development arrested. It is time to recognize that our people are our diamonds, our minds our petroleum. Our human resources are more valuable than any material resources we may ever have.
The New Gambia Movement recognizes that bringing about the kind of positive fundamental transformation we need in The Gambia requires much more than a mere change of individual leadership or government, however important that is. It demands a radical transformation of our collective national mindset itself. It demands that we show serious and practical interest in our people, their minds and their creative potentials in art, science, music, industry and all other fields. If we are genuinely invested in the development of our human resource potential, we can turn Gambia into a society of innovative and empowered citizens with the capacity to transform their small country into one big, peaceful and prosperous city of lights with well-paved roads and much, much more. We in no way underestimate the colossal challenges such an undertaking involves. But we also do not underestimate the human capacity for creativity, innovation and overcoming challenges, however formidable. We believe we will be more successful in overcoming our challenges if we work together to find strategic solutions that will enable us to pull down some of the walls that have so far limited our capacity to develop.
The New Gambia Movement believes that the type of positive and sustainable political transformation we envision requires a home-grown, coherent, and workable ideology whose tenets and principles will be readily understood by all Gambians. We believe that the concept of the Family Nation fulfils this requirement. The basic tenet of the Family Nation is that Gambian society is one big traditional Gambian family in which the people are the parents and the government, the children of the nation. Actualizing the Family Nation requires conscious, practical and sustained efforts at transposing traditional Gambian family values onto our political culture and government. In this way, we can help transform Gambia into one big traditional Gambian family to which all Gambians belong, irrespective of political, religious or any other affiliations. In the Family Nation we envision, all the people, irrespective of their political, religious or other affiliations will be treated as the parents of the nation; and the government will be treated as the children of the nation. If our presidents, politicians, security forces and civil servants understand themselves to be, and are understood by the people to be the children of a Family Nation, they will be constrained or otherwise rendered incapable of doing things that will have adverse effects on the country. A police officer will hesitate to harass a taxi driver if he remembers that the taxi driver is a person from the same family; that in fact, the cab driver is his or her parent.
In order to turn our small country into one big Gambian Family Nation, we will strive for the actualization of the idea of the nation as school – the Nation School. In basic terms, this means that the entire country will be conceptualized as one big school within which all citizens are involved in an ongoing process of political education and civic empowerment. We reject the notion that Gambians must be literate in English before they can learn about their country’s constitution or any other aspects of Gambian, African or global affairs. Our national languages are as good as any to serve as mediums of national instruction, conducted both through our national media and through face-to-face forums with well-qualified experts in the required fields. As soon as we possibly can, we intend to establish or advocate the establishment of an Institute or Center for Gambian Studies which will serve as a vehicle for the political enlightenment and empowerment of all Gambians. This center or institute will be engaged in the active production and dissemination of knowledge on all aspects of Gambian studies especially in our local languages. As soon as feasible, we intend to seek regular platforms on our national media – especially Gambia Radio and Television Services – and to organize regular public meetings across the country at which we will engage the Gambian people in a discourse on constitutional and governance matters affecting their lives as the sovereign citizens of a constitutional nation state and as citizens of the wider world within which our country is embedded. We welcome ideas that will lead to the establishment of other institutes in all artistic, scientific, and technological fields to help in the creation of knowledge, wealth, and improvements in the quality of life of the Gambian people.
As we launch this new and challenging project, we remain fully aware that no idea is perfect and that there is always room for error, revisions and improvements. For this reason, we will keep an open mind, be ready to listen to new ideas, and be willing, even eager, to let our idea of the Family Nation evolve to its highest possible manifestation. The New Gambia Movement offers its services to the Gambian people as a civic engagement platform totally dedicated to the transformation of our country into a Family Nation and a Nation School in which the government’s work is a true reflection of the rhythm of life of its empowered and enlightened citizens. We crave the support and involvement of all Gambians and friends of The Gambia in this effort. And we humbly pray for the blessings, guidance, support, and protection of the All Mighty God, to Whom alone all knowledge and power belongs.
We invite all Gambians and friends of The Gambia who identify or agree with the ideas, sentiments and vision outlined in this statement to please join and support the New Gambia Movement by clicking on the link below. There are no membership fees. Please enter your real name, your country of residence (your state if in the U.S) and your email address to facilitate effective communication and the building of a coherent organizational structure. Please share as widely as possible on social media and other platforms and forums #ForTheGambiaOurHomeland! Thank you and Happy New Year!
The New Gambia Movement is also on Facebook. Please click here to like/follow us on Facebook.
Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow, U.S.A
Dr. Omar Janneh, UK
Dr Jallow , thank you so much for your great idea of building a political conscious family nation . This is the step in right direction. We need more organizations in the country with the objective of working on capacity building in political education and empowerment of citizenry. As we began the new year and new beginning in political leadership, we must all put our minds and souls to fundamentally change the political culture of our country. Participatory democracy needs political conscious citizenry without which there will be political oppression and impunity. Strategically, we must target young people in this capacity building project . This can be achieved through education at kindergarten and primary school level where young people are first introduce into formal education. In this case, our school curriculum must be fundamentally changed to suit the learning needs of 21 st century political conscious family nation you have suggested. The university of The Gambia , Gambia college and other tertiary institutions must also encourage political education in their curriculum and political academic freedom should be highly encouraged. With these suggestions and the ones you highlighted above such as relevant Tv programs, village Bantaba or group education in various settings will go along way to transform our country into a beautiful political conscious family nation. We can achieve this goal when we collectively engage our indigenous people across the country.
Thank you Maxs. We need all minds on board right now and appreciate any suggestions such as the ones you made above as we strategize on how best to move forward.
I am a uk citizen who is married to a gambian national, i spend at least 5mths a year in gambia and have high hopes that with a new regime in place the gambia will thrive. The people of the gambia deserve better than they have had for the last 22years. Beautiful people and a beautiful country. May peace and love prevail
Amen to your kind prayer David. Yes, Gambians deserve better than we have had for the past 22 years and God willing, we will get better than that moving forward. Thanks for your kind encouragement.
I’m in! Reading this piece, I felt like it’s a catharsis of my own heart. I read it over and over due to its charge with the imperative and its poke at the brighter Gambia. Thank you, Mentor!
Thank you Gambiano. Your brilliant mind will be an invaluable asset to the Movement.
I thank you for your thoughtfulness of capacity building and the educational system in The Gambia. But first, we the so call learned, have to really prepare ourselves to become social workers and not being office workers just pushing the pen. I have a lot to play the blame game with Yahya Jammeh but let us just sit one minute and think how did Yahya get to this point.
When Yahya came to power, the man knows nothing about governance more or less good governance. Again the so call learned surrounded him and help him scam our beloved home land and while in the process the elites enriched their pockets instead of servicing the Gambian people. The elites are as guilty as Yahya Jammeh.
To make a long story, for those looking Jobs in The Gambia, please do not go back and get suck in bad system that got the Gambaia for 22 long years into this mess. Gambians have suffered enough under Yahya Jammeh but not without the help of the greedy Gambian elites.
One good thing 22 years Yahya have done, Gambians have a wealth of education, well travelled and well experience in all kinds of professions
The well learned can return back and get sworned in to help the 99% of people and not the 1% elite. Gambia is a small country with a lot of big opportunities. If we go back, work as hard as we did in America, Europe and Scandinavia with due diligence, we will succeed not as individuals but together as a country.
On that note, I think all hiring should go through a rigious process. The tone of every successful Company starts from the top. So, let the vetting begins, not only to the learned but to people who has something to bring on the table. Start rolling your sleeves and join the other many progressive groups to help Gambia grow. We can’t be having groups all over the place and nothing is done for the Gambian people. Policies can be put on paper and if not implemented, it become redundant.
Sorry, if I have offered anyone, but it’s an opinion.
A good opinion too Yanks. Thanks for sharing.
Quite a good opinion @Yankuba. Thanks Baba for quite a thought provoker. One good reason why Kairo news is my favorite; they have a site where I can come across all walks of life of the Gambia citizenry, not my imagination of their paths of walks, but my interest in their opinions, views and ideals.
(One good thing 22 years Yahya have done, Gambians have a wealth of education, well travelled and well experience in all kinds of professions) and (..not only to the learned but to people who has something to bring on the table)- Yanks. Both are worth any price. The 1% ‘well learned sworn in’ can help the 99% if they are really aware of the fact that skills(innovatives and inventions) after all build the nations. I say [build the nation], in a layman point of view meaning; good housing systems, city standard sewage and sanitation systems, running water, electricity, good roads and paved, green lawns and parks, including kids’. With the help of a skilled human resource, in my opinion, the micro-businesses, i.e, bakeries, barbershops, hairstylists, the fast food restaurants, kiosks, the vegetable stalls, market sites, businesses around taxi stands, plazas etc. etc., can be improved in image, quality, productivity and have an appealing availabilty to citizens. I don’t want to wake up to toxic stench of a ‘streaming something’ from somewhere near or the tintinablation of the welders hammer or sight of waste engine oils that have contaminated all the grounds around the mechanic’s workshop. Waking up around in a good looking environment is a daily first step to one’s good health. This can be achieved with the help of a skilled human resources in their respective entities, in an atmosphere of good governance. In short, a good and well meaning infrastructure is another preventive breakthrough in national healthcare.
The more people(including all) touch and use to benefit from our implemented skills, more we are realising a people, a nation, a state and the concept of ‘greater happiness for the greatest number’, therein.
Simply insightful and breathtaking!!!
Thanks Foday. I always enjoy reading your insightful pieces.
This is a very good initiative and one that can strengthen our democracy by empowering, encouraging and equipping the citizens: the real repositories of power, with the requisite knowledge, skills and resolve to carry out our duties, as defenders of our constitution and democracy, as well as guardians of our Gambian culture, traditions, norms and values.
It is pleasing to note that the founders are aware of the challenges any organisation of this nature will face in The Gambia, as these organisations (political or not) that aim to demystify government, governance, politics and political office will effectively be on a head-on collision course with well established and well entrenched practices that have been efficiently and selfishly used by successive generations of politicians and other government /non geveenmental officials, to entrench themselves in power and/or positions of influence.
Without being or appearing political, I think I can quite easily recognise similarities in a lot of the aims of this new movement with the well publicised political ambitions of a particular political party in The Gambia, and if the experience of that party is anything to go by, then the road ahead for this movement will be quite stretched and bumpy.
The New Gambia Movement, being an initiative of private citizens, I assume, will be an independent, apolitical organisation and it is from that respect that I think the idea is fantastic and requires maximum support.
We have a constitutionally established institution in the form of the National Civic Education Council, which should have, amongst other things, the duty to “educate and encourage the public to defend this constitution against all forms of abuse and violence”, but which has woefully failed to achieve anything visible in two decades of abuses and violence against the citizens.
Perhaps, we can push for the replacement of the National Civic Education Council with the New Gambia Movement, established and protected from any state interference by any future constitution and funded by the public purse, because the magnitude of the envisaged programmes requires serious funding and I am not sure whether private funding will be sustainable, or even appropriate .
The reason, as already pointed out, being that a movement of this nature will be going against the political stausquo and effectively waging a war against the powers that be, and what you do not want to do, is to give them any excuse to accuse you of serving vested interest (foreign or local) by relying of donor funding. Once that opportunity is given, no matter how miniscule, it will be used to denigrate the work of the movement.
I think it is very important that every effort is made to make this organisation a successful and publicly funded national institution. We should not underestimate our capability to defend our democracy, and our resolve to do so must be firm and never shaken. It is only then that we can guard against any future appearance of a Yaya Jammeh type of idiot on our political scene, ever again. We must do this because we cannot afford any reign of polarised terror that has the potential to destroy our country.
To end, I must congratulate Dr Jallow and all who contributed to the formulation of this wonderful idea into the creation of the New Gambia Movement initiative. Nothing is impossible if we put our collective effort into it. Thank you all.
Bax, I wish I knew your real name so I could personally reach out to say thank you so much for your very insightful and helpful feedback on this project and to also say we want you on board. I very much appreciate your keen analysis and agree that this Movement is likely to go against the political status quo but only, if I might add, that status quo is less than democratic. We had these ideas for a long time but could not imagine doing anything of the sort in Gambia under dictatorship of the kind we just got rid off. We are confident however that a lot can be done during the three coming years and beyond. The New Gambia Movement will certainly be happy to work with the Civic Education Council, but we might be wary of taking over their place as a state-funded agency because that might at some point compromise our freedom of thought and/or action. Yes, we are offering public service; but as you poignantly point out, that public service may run against the grain of established authorities not entirely committed to popular empowerment or whose skin is not thick enough to be subjected to the kind of popular scrutiny we would like Gambians to focus on their government and leaders. In any case, thanks a lot for your thoughtful analysis.