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