Well, if the demo was planned and publicised on social media, then serious questions about competence need to be asked.
Many will agree that the demonstrators have not given any legitimate reasons for taking to the streets, if as reported, their grievance was against the stationing of ECOMIG troops in and around Kanilai.
There has not been any reports of these troops harassing or interfering with the daily lives of Foni residents, and even if there were, other options to address their concerns should have been explored, before any demonstrations. Demonstrations are often the very last resort to seek redress for any grievance.
However, the idea that the people of Kanilai, or indeed the whole of Foni, should not demonstrate today because they didn’t yestetday, or that those who defend their rights to peaceful demonstration are hypocrites, is not only silly but quite revealing too. What kind of democrat or mature minded person would think like this?
The new government has inherited a very fragile situation created by its predecessor that it must deal with, but it must do so in a way that wins the trust of the aggrieved (rightly or wrongly), maintains peace and reflects its slogan of ONE GAMBIA, ONE PEOPLE, ONE NATION.
Talk of drawing lines in the sand, bombing to the stone age or destroying housing complexes does not win trust and instil confidence. Indeed, comments that border on insensitivities are being made around court houses, on social media and radio shows, but there are stupid idiots everywhere, who may not necessarily represent the majority views. A government must not devise and pursue state policy from the utterances of cyber idiots and every day fools, who are, after all, a tiny minority that represent no one.
It is high time that the government employs measures that identify potential trouble makers in Foni, monitor their activities and movements, both on the ground and on social media, and take appropriate actions where they are deemed to be security threats. I also think that a well equipped riot police unit should be deployed in Foni or close to Foni to respond to any incidents of public disorder.
The ECOMIG troops are soldiers and should NEVER partake in law and order enforcement, except in collaboration with, and under the command of, the Police. The new government came into existence to offer Gambia a system of governance based on the rule of law, and it must not waiver on this mandate, regardless of the challenges it will face.
This incident must be properly investigated, the failures admitted and acknowledged and measures taken to prevent any such further incidents. The community of Kanilai and environs, as indeed any community that has a grievance, must be engaged; not marginalised, to allay any fears of victimisation or ostracisation they may feel in the “New” Gambia.
We are in this together and our success will be gauged by, and depend on, how we emerge from this transition period into the THIRD Republic. May Allah (SWT) Guide us into the third republic as ONE GAMBIA, ONE NATION, ONE PEOPLE. Ameen.