By: Dr Alhagi Manta Drammeh (PGCerTHE, FHEA, FRSA, UK) Professor, Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, UK
I started writing this piece on Monday as I reflected on my country from the outside. I was distracted and could not complete it. I am compelled to compete it to see the sad stories of Manduar and Kanilai and before those incidences we had heard the incidences of Kombo Faraba and Sanyang. Tribalism has not been a major issue in the Gambia. However, politicians can send wrong signals that can be devastating for our country’s development. The messaging that politicians send must be responsible and measured. Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia came to their knees because of reckless political statements made by politicians here and there. This was ensued by a humanitarian catastrophe in a great magnitude. People in Rwanda who intermarried and coexisted peacefully for centuries became suspicious of each other killing each other because of tribe and ethnicity. For Liberia and Sierra Leone, the implications of the civil wars were far-reaching. The Economic Organisation of West African States (ECOWAS) had to intervene to stop the humanitarian disaster unfolding in both countries. The sub-region could not bear the consequences of a failed state.
Ethnicity, tribe and race can be used constructively and positively for the betterment of society and communities on one hand. On the other, they can be abused and misused leading to carnage, crises and conflict. The first and second world wars were caused by misconstruing the real meaning of the afore mentioned categories. This destroyed Europe for centuries until they learned to coexist peacefully despite racial, religious and ideological differences. Racial superiority claims can be destructive, divisive and catastrophic. Germans under the Hitler Nazis thought they were the best race and all had to be subdued. That led to the killing of millions of people and the famous holocaust that took the lives of innocent Jews.
Realizing the paramount importance of global peace and security the whole world from Africa to Asia came together to say no to Nazism, No to holocaust, and no to racism. According to the Qur’anic universal message, race, ethnicity and tribe are labels to know each other. They are there to reach out to one another and to cooperate in promoting good for the sustenance of society. They are not there to ridicule one another or to claim superiority over one another. The Qur’an states: “O people, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (Al-hujurat,49:14). Indeed the above divine message emphasises the unity of the origin of humanity. It rejects all forms of superiority on the bases of race, ethnicity or tribe. The Gambia cannot afford ethnic, tribal or sectarian-based politics. Politics is about compromises and dialogue. The Gambia needs ideas to reform ourselves and our society. The Gambia needs ideas to improve our quality of lives and livelihoods. The Gambia needs ideas to improve our economy, health and education. It is unfortunate that some irresponsible politicians and pseudo intellectuals insult and intimidate others because they lack ideas and political maturity. Politics should not make us tear the social cohesion of our country. There are deep-seated sociological, political and educational issues that need to be addressed. Our society has been bruised and needs healing. We need politicians to send responsible messages that will contribute to the healing of our society and social cohesion. The simmering suspicions created by some unscrupulous politicians over the last two decades to create division must be debunked through educating each other. The National civic council has played an important role in civic education. It can redouble its effort at engaging with local communities in order to inculcate values of diversity and tolerance. Religious and traditional leaders have an important role to play in promoting dialogue and understanding within society.
Geopolitically, our development partners in the sub-region, Africa at large and the wider international community cannot accept and will not accept the Gambia to become another failed state. The unfolding terrorist activities in the Sahel cannot and should not be given a fertile space to grow. Failed states are prone to the growth of such extremist activities as we witness in our region from Chad to Mali!