2016 is election year in The Gambia. A very interesting year for those interested in analyzing Gambian politics and a decisive one for those attached to the political happenings in the tiny country. Those that want to see a change of government or continuation of the same. Personally, I am attached to both. This makes it hard to limit biases in my political analysis. However, I will try to be as neutral as possible in my analysis. I am not asking you to be. Challenge me; make me see what I am not seeing. After all, it is for God and nation.
I promise I am going to make this post very short and straight to the point. I just want us to discuss what 2016 means to us as Gambians and what we are doing about it. It is very obvious that as small as we seem to look, we are a much divided society when it comes to politics. Is it a bad thing? I don’t think so. Do most of us see it as a bad thing? Yes, we do. However, the sad part is that our division is mostly based on personalities we like or dislike, and not based on issues. I think personalities are important, but should they determine our future? I don’t think so. I don’t think our future as a nation is dependent on Yahya Jammeh, Ousainou Darboe, Halifa Sallah or Hamat Bah. It depends on us. We who call ourselves Gambians and proudly identify with our shortcomings and are willing to push for a brighter future.
Today, what currently dominates the political discussion in The Gambia is opposition unity. Most Gambians especially those in the diaspora are calling for such collaboration as the only means possible to remove Jammeh from office. Or we may say one of many possible means. Mind you, those that are calling for such are the ones that still believe in the ballot box and not the barrel of the gun. I equally believe in the electoral process. I believe that all the changes and the reforms that have been strategically made are just stumbling blocks created by the ruling party to deter and discourage possible opponents from contesting. We all know that. However, experience in the social justice movement thought me that challenges are opportunities as well. It depends on how we wield them to our advantage. Mind you, I am not saying these structural changes are needed, but for change to happen they are necessary.
This may sound a little out of topic. However, I think it is relevant. I must say that I understand the way semi-autocratic regimes operate. I understand the fact that they control the police and the military. I also understand that they are richer and seemingly more organized based on all factors mentioned. Nonetheless, I believe, despite the poor financial status of opposition political parties they have similar power and control over the masses just like the ruling party. I am not saying the opposition should use the masses to clash with the security forces, but they should understand that they are not weak. They simply need to realize their comparative advantage and use it to check the powers of the incumbent. I think the best way to do this in our case is in the parliament.
The last time I was talking to a friend and mentor when the electoral reform bill was introduced in parliament. We know very well that the bill was going to get A+ pass within a second. We also noted that the only people that could have vehemently opposed the bill were the opposition political parties in parliament. That is if they were there or even not. So, we know that they were not in parliament because they boycotted the last parliamentary elections based on several factors. Principle, they called it. However, what prevented them from mobilizing their members for a peaceful march to the National Assembly and push forward their demands or even stopping the bill from passing? Yes, I know what you think. Why didn’t I do it? It is easy for me to be in Norway some miles away from The Gambia and suggest this. That is true. I feel like I am somehow selfish. In fact I am very selfish. However, this is not the point I am getting at. I personally, do not want to see any human talk less of someone from my community getting killed or anything. I strongly believe in non-violent means to change government. I equally believe that change takes time and that we need to invest all the time we need to create change. I was just trying to show another part of my troubled mind.
You might be asking what exactly I am trying to say in this post. I don’t even know. Just like The Gambia, I am in dilemma as well. I am at a crossroads. Confused, not knowing which way to go. If you think I am the only one thinking this way, ask the ordinary Gambian in the street. We want things to change, we want dignifying jobs, we want to feel a part of something, we want to see a democratic Gambia, we want security, and we want The Gambia to be what we have grown to love and care for, and a place we are proud to call home. You can add to the list. However, I don’t trust the politicians. I don’t trust that changing Jammeh will make things better. I also don’t trust that leaving Jammeh in office will solve issues he can’t solve and some which he created. In fact what guarantee do I have that if Jammeh loses, he will leave power? At the end I have to decide. We have to choose and like I mentioned whatever option we go with, we will live with the consequences.
A few days ago, I had a very interesting discussion with some senior Gambians. Yes, they are older than me. Way older. They are the same age with my dad but they treat me like their age mate. Since I moved to this part of the world for studies, I always look forward to meeting them. As a historian interested in post-independence Gambian history, they are the best people to engage and receive first-hand information. I am sure I will engage them in my upcoming blog series on “Everything that is wrong with Gambian Politics”. The idea is to critically look at our evolution as a country and society. Right now, I have chronicled my ideas into fifteen parts. Excuse my digression. Let us go back to the point.
One of the men raised a very important point, one worth sharing. His point was that online papers and radios have concentrated all their efforts in dehumanizing Jammeh. Now that everyone knows, we must focus on real issues confronting ordinary Gambians. His point resonated well with what I have been saying for a very long time. Jammeh is just one part of our problem. The problem of The Gambia is Gambians including Jammeh. As bloggers, journalists and writers in general interested in information sharing, we must start focusing on low salaries, increasing cost of living, growing poverty level in rural and urban areas, migration, job creation etc. These issues should decide what road we should take and who will drive the bus. For now, all we hear is Jammeh this and Jammeh that. Yes, we should blame him for some of the things and then we should look inward and see what we doing right or otherwise.
All that I have been trying to say is this. What road are we taking come 1st December, 2016?