Let me respond to an article titled “I Lost My Cousin To Alkali Conteh’s Beastly Brutality” written by so-called journalist Ebou Sohna, published by Freedom newspaper on December 23, 2017. I found Mr Sohna’s article not only troubling and lacking credibility but it was also designed to assassinate the character of a gentleman who has sacrificed and contributed significantly to our current democratic political achievement.
First, I would like to state categorically clearly that I have neither met Mr Conteh in person nor spoken to him. However, I came across many significant contributions the man has made during our “Struggle” to restore democracy and constitutional rule in The Gambia. Mr Conteh’s political contributions to the advancement of UDP’s political struggle and ultimate freedom of Gambian people is a testament of the character of a man who is well respected and admired for his adamancy for human rights and rule of law. He was among the pioneers of the first ever Gambian opposition political parties conference held outside The Gambia to garner political and financial support for removal of military dictatorship. The three-day conference held in Raleigh, North Carolina in the United States of America, in May 2013 aimed at deliberating on strategies and tactics on how to effect peaceful change in the Gambia. The conference laid the foundation for strategic vision for opposition unity and to galvanize Gambians in every part of the world to unite with common purpose of defeating and removing dictatorship from The Gambia. Mr Conteh’s fingerprints and personal involvement or investment in that endeavour was the highest level of a responsible citizenship. He was admired and loved for such a brilliant initiative. That initiative was later hijacked by a group of power hungry people and their nefarious political maneuvering which ultimately led to the defeat and collapse of that noble initiative.
As a society, it is our duty to honour and celebrate our sung and unsung heroes. Do they deserve the whip? The answer definitely is an emphatic NO.
Like in the case of Hero Alkali Conteh, haters keep mute with their baggage until these heroes have been appointed before unloading their shots on them. That’s why we are not surprise to see irresponsible personal attacks on Mr Conteh, the only untold simple reason being his appointment to serve a country he has serve his genuinely fought for. What a lack of decency this new phenotypical political activists are doing to put dirts on the characters of our heroes and true freedom fighters!
In Mr Sohna’s article, he claimed that “Reliable sources at the School at the time among the students as well as teachers who witnessed the incident informed us that Alkali allegedly tortured the boy by a form of a cruel, inhuman and degrading corporal punishment” which resulted to his cousin’s death the next day.
The legitimate questions that every reasonable and honest person would have asked Mr Sohna was, why did his family fail to report the case to the Ministry of Education and Police at the time. Why Sohna continued to be silent about this senseless allegation until Mr Conteh is appointed a member of the Public Service Commission? What has he hoped to achieve in writing such an allegation after more than 30 years of silence other than baseless propaganda? What medical evidence did he have to warrant such an allegation? Which school in the Gambia at time has not practiced the so-called torture (lay in local parlance) he described in his deceptive article?
Based on these legitimate questions which he has failed to address, it is shameful and outright disrespectful for Mr Sohna to use the alleged death of his cousin. The baseless, unintelligent and unfounded allegation is meant to score cheap political point. This irresponsible political maneuvering – new phenomenon in the Gambia – is detrimental to our new democracy and political freedom. The timing of Mr Sohna’s article was clear indication that it was designed for politics of personal destruction or character distortion which in itself is mean spirited. Only lack of moral values will push one to act this way. If Mr Sohna was truly concerned about his cousin’s death as he falsely proclaimed in his article, he would have advocated for justice long time ago. It’s unfortunate to see him stooping so low in engagingin cheap and dishonest political expediency. Mr Sohna’s suggestion that Mr Conteh was “transferred to a higher-class school, Banjul Secondary Technical School in Kanifing South probably to save him from a possible future trouble with the students or a negative reaction by the community in case he continued the practice and use of corporal punishment to the students” is the biggest fabrication of his story. In essence, Mr Sohna wanted Gambians to believe that the Education Ministry at the time rewarded Mr Conteh for the untimely death of his cousin. This is a dishonest and malicious propaganda aimed at tarnishing the good name of many outstanding people who contributed to the Gambia’s education system at the time.
Mr Sohna has every right to question the legitimacy of Mr Conteh’s appointment as a member of public service commission just like some have recently done. However, his article is the latest evidence of systematic malicious propaganda designed by a “group of former self entitled strugglers” with a supreme desire to sow seeds of discord or assassinate characters of honest and decent people who want to make positive contributions in the new administration. This systematic character assassination is indeed immoral, it’s the highest level of irresponsible citizenship. It was such lies and deceptions by small group of dishonest people who plunged the country into 22 years of human rights violations, economic deterioration, destruction of fundamental social cohesion and negative tribal rhetoric. The Gambian people have repudiated politics of personal destruction and politics of division in the past presidential election which saw the elbowing out of Yahya Jammeh. Politics of personal destruction spearheaded by some online social media has no place in any civilized country like ours where religious and cultural values all condemn lies and deceptions for advancement of the individual or tribal interest.
In this new era of democratic political activism, the Gambia needs genuine and positive contributions to advance our common interests and purposes. Fake political activism based on deceptive personal story and tribal inclination is not in our supreme national interest because it has the potential to create political instability and destruction of national cohesion. It was time that we red card fake political activism and engage in genuine political activism based on issues that really matter to ordinary citizens. As we speak, there are countless number of citizens who need better health care services, quality education and employment opportunities which are the common issues citizens care about because these issues are affecting their daily lives. They careless about a baseless and unfounded 30 years old nonsensical political driven story. Any paper that publishes such a highly sensational article should also be ready for any resulting legal brouhaha. When we let political idiocy take center stage in our new found political freedom, our common interests, moral values and sense of direction will be highjacked by political clowns.