By: Dr Alhagi Manta Drammeh (Fellow Higher Education Acdemy UK FHA, Fellow Royal Society of Arts RSA UK) Professor of Islamic Thought and Contemporary Society
You call it conversation, you call it dialogue, you call it reconciliation, you call it social harmonisation or you call it healing, the Gambia is truly witnessing a very important moment of its social and political history. This history making in the Gambia has been propelled by the resoluteness of its people to move the Gambia forward and to break once and forever chains and shackles of slavery and dictatorship in all their forms and manifestations. Thus, December 01, 2016 is a historic day on which the Gambians exercised their political and civic right to open a new page in their history and to usher into an era of real development-the development of the individuals in a holistic manner. The so-called development of human capital is most relevant to the Gambia today as the individual has been broken to immeasurable degrees prompting the cream of our youths to take the back way to Europe in search of a dreamland that can never be found. This conversation will harness the combination of efforts and ideas from civil, political and cultural to security, military and intelligence. These efforts should be geared towards entrenching discipline, the authority of law, the preservation of human dignity, religious tolerance, and promotion of ethnic diversity and grounding of good governance. Here, I salute the grassroots efforts to promote dialogue and social cohesion. After all it is One Gambia and One People and I am tempted to add with diverse ethnicities. In this process, it is imperative that truth and justice are established. Otherwise, reconciliation will be hollow and meaningless. It is important to fulfil some basic criteria for the success of any reconciliation:
- To increase communication and not allow communication to break under any circumstances
- To respect diverse opinions and ideas in order to enrich the process of healing and reconciliation
- To bring to justice those accused of malpractices, human rights violations and crimes against humanity
- To transcend party-political affiliations and narrow tribal backgrounds to develop what I have referred to as Gambianess regardless of tribe, ethnicity, geographical location or race
- To promote inclusivity and fight all forms of exclusion.
In order to make this reconciliation resilient and meaningful, a form of transitional and restorative justice maybe put in place in order to formulate mechanisms for addressing human rights abuses and to heal the wounds of the past regime. Truth-telling will therefore augur well in bringing about closure and healing of those wounds and broken families and individuals. In this restorative justice, relationships between individuals, communities and families can be reconstructed to move the country forward.
While I am writing this article, the Gambian Leader His Excellency Barrow and his high-powered delegation are in New York at the United Nations to attend the General Assembly meeting. It is a great occasion for the Gambian Leader and his entourage to showcase the Gambia and to explore investment opportunities bilaterally and multilaterally. It is also important to rectify the retrogressive message created during the two decades of isolation and dysfunctional governance.
In the end, this reconciliation is not a cosmetic surgery. Rather it is a great exercise to heal the wounds inflicted on our dear Gambia and make it a better place in the community of nations. It is about putting the hand on this wound in order to create social cohesion and civil discipline by entrenching the values of national unity. There is a momentum in the Gambia for change and transformation. There is popular support for his Excellency Alhaj Adam Barrow in the Gambia. There is support for the Gambia internationally. This momentum for moving the Gambia forward should not be wasted by any means. Rather, it should be utilised to the fullest by tapping into all available opportunities nationally, regionally and internationally. There is a golden opportunity to make the Gambia a better place for all its citizens and residents alike by prudently utilising the available human and natural resources. As we come from the holy Month of Dhul Hijjah, I pray that Allah the Almighty shower His Mercy and Blessings on the Gambia. This month of hajj symbolises divine fraternity and origin of the entire humanity and indeed their final destination. Long live the Gambia and Long Live the People of the Gambia. May allay bless and protect the Gambia.