The parliamentary election results was an exciting one, a resounding rejection of hate mongers and tribal agitators. Truth prevailed over falsehood, love triumph over hatred, altruism outshined selfishness, light overcome night and the clue of tribal harmony and neighbourhood bond was strengthened.
Fear of tribal domination whipped by media especially some online papers created a lot of foreboding and uneasiness. Some even went to the extent of floating the idea of other tribes uniting to stand up to their perceived notion of Mandinka domination.
Alhamdulillah this ignorable bigotry has largely been rejected in many constituencies except Fonis which understandably felt it existential to send clear message that they are still solidly behind their benefactor, Jammeh and APRC. People of Fonis did fared relatively better under Jammeh in term of job privileges however, a large number of them have evidently been incarcerated, maimed and even killed by Jammeh. That fact is acknowledged. Yet for reasons of tribal affiliation, they turned a blind eye and voted for APRC perhaps thinking they can bring back Jammeh. That is mirage-hope, a dream at best. I hope the Jolas will let go their charged emotions and start a new page, an after Jammeh page. There so much for the Jolas to contribute in after Jammeh era. Jammeh is not master over their lives.
Before delving into result trend analysis to extract the tribal voting theme I want to examine the myth of the monotonous accusation of UDP being a mandinka party and thus a tribally inclined party; and by extension Darboe being a tribalist . I think this is false sentiments. The matrimony of the party’s top officials is a testament to the falsehood of the said allegations. We’re all smart nowadays and cannot allow part surrogates with devious interest to use the power and influence of their media portal to force down fear of a tribe into our throat. Ourselves are capable of reading between the lines to identify false narratives which don’t stand unbiased scrutiny.
First if a person is tribalist, he find it difficult to speak other tribe’s language much more to marry from among them. The top echelon of UDP unlike other party leaders are married to spouses from other tribes and indeed from political families which since the first republic were known to harbour anti-mandinka inclinations. The foreign minister and leader of UDP is married to daughter of former leader of UP Mr Piere Njie, a Suruwa by all means, it is not far-fetch to claim that wife in many ways influence her husband’s life decisions of which political decision is no exception. Many of us in our fifties witnessed how Jawara’s marriage to daughter of Modou Musa Njie; an arch Mandinka opponent; gave so much political and economic power to the Banjulians especially the Modou Musa Njie family.
During Jawara era most Permanent secretaries, Directors, and Generals, accountant Generals, Auditor General, Secretary Generals were of Banjul extraction. The Finance Minister is married to Aku from Banjul who by extension is Wollof. So were many top officials, as Banjul seem to be spouse-magnet for many top Mandinka guys.
If these guys were tribalist, they would not want their offspring to come from a tribe they hate; so this notion of mandinka tribalism is nonsensical and is aimed at disarming anyone who want progress for mandinka tribe or want to speak his/her language. In the PPP era many notable mandinka ministers and MPs had wollof or Bajul spouses; like Bakary Darbo, Landing Jallow Sonko, Dembo Jatta, Saikou Sabally, Mbemba Jatta, Lamin kiti Jabang etc. How many ministers or directors from other side had Mandinka spouses. So I don’t think the tribal label fits here.
It’s time for a new consciousness that promote partnership and good coexistence to be the prevailing political theme . Tribal mudslinging and agitation precipitate malevolence and discord which can mature into an existential threat. It can tear down community and reverse our achievements over the years. Tribal discord spurred co-annihilation in many African countries and right now, the embers of tribal hatred is still simmering in Burundi. In that conflict some ruthless and maladroit journalists who do weigh the potential consequence of what they report were culprits in that tribal carnage. They spread unfounded rumours and causing fear and foreboding for other tribes.
Such journalists and media outlets should be identified and isolated with boycotts, this is because their actions are a threat to community cohesion. That is not anti-media measure but for expedience of national security and it is not uncommon to see such firm actions taken by developed democracies. UK did at one time piled so much pressure on PressTV, RT and Sputnik. The media should play a constructive role, hold government and institutions to account, disseminate information but if it endeavour to fan the flame of tribal discord, that is red-line.
The results announce in my own backyard, Kombo South is a microcosm of what transpired in major part of the country. There is strong correlation coefficient in the pattern of results which sadly in many manifestations exhibited a trend of tribal voting. In Kombo South, the results bellow show that in villages where there is strong Fula presence like Nyofelley voted for GDC and where there is strong Jola community like Banyaka voted for APRC.
APRC 321, UDP 142, GDC 86 ,Independent 8 ,GPDP 4 , NRP 2
Independent Banfally Demba 169 , UDP Kebba K Barrow 241, APRC Abdou Calley 224, Awa Bah NRP 39, GDC Ebrima E Fatty 69, GPDP Alsanna Keita 11.
Sifoe Independent Banfally Demba 260 , UDP Kebba K Barrow 512, APRC Abdou Calley 429, Awa Bah NRP 2, GDC Ebrima E Fatty 218, GPDP Alsanna Keita 6
GDC 414 UDP 193 APRC 99 IND 17 NRP 9 GDPD 2
NRP 31 UDP 3617 INDEPENDENT 55 GDC 208 GPDP 13 APRC 301
UDP 1389, NRP 40 INDEPENDENT 125 GDC 254 GDPD 33 APRC 815
In Gunjur, Sanyang’s, Tujereng, Tangi, Jambanjelly, Jambur, Busumballa all with Mandinka majority voted overwhelmingly for UDP.
The pattern exhibited in Kombo south was disappointingly replicated country wide. This is dangerous because it can lead to community fragmentation, disillusionment and political apathy. Thereis a strong inter-marriage sub-culture in the Gambia and if tribal fragmentation is allowed to subsist, it can break community spirit and replace it with a ghetto mentality where everyone is attuned only his or her tribe. I saw a gist of this notion on my last holiday when I work into former BICI bank branch near Sunuker. I spoke to cashier in Mandinka and the first thing that came into her mount was “man dekuma sosseh” and I deliberately retorted “eng fanna man suruwa kango moi”. I can speak wollof but the response of the cashier appears to be derogatory and insensitive. Institutions should make it mandatory for potential employees be bi-lingual in order accommodate to those who cannot speak wollof. You can see a stalemate at the bank, which supposed to me customer oriented than many institutions.
Tribal voting confounds the spirits of democracy as people don’t vote on principles but the language of the contestants. It is clear from the pattern of voting that NRP and GDC won in areas with Fula and Fana Fana communities, PPP won in a place with strong wollof community. It is not unsafe to say UDP win in areas with strong Mandika communities except for lower and upper Niumi which the coalition lost in the presidential election. The hinterland of the Niumis has a strong Fana Fana and Fula constituents. As in Upper Niumi, the UPD candidate has both Fula and Fana fana in-laws, perhaps that played a role in his win for UPD.
As for PDOIS, it is difficult to inference the role of tribal voting in the constituencies they won however Halifa’s fame and credibility failed to attract votes for PDOIS. It seems the fracas that ensured between him and Darboe had was understood to have a tribal undertone especially from the Mandinka side. I don’t think Halifa is tribalist, it was just that he had a different model of how the coalition should contest the a parliamentary elections.
The voting pattern was evidently not based on the competence and ideology of parties but on tribe connections, which is quite worrying. Unlike advance democracies and even our neighbour Senegal, the people vote with their head not with their tongue. They analyse the policies offered by the contending parties, competence, leadership qualities and credibility of the contestants and extent to which they fulfil their political views. At the end of the day, they have strong interest in the progress and prosperity of their nations.
Why did it come to this despite the tribes living side by side and even intermarried suddenly take tribal lines in politics. If Yaya sow the seeds then it has germinated and it does not augur well for our communities who shared everything from land to sea, mosques to markets.
Initially I subscribe to the position of PPP and PDOIS , that was for the coalition to participate in the parliamentary elections under one umbrella so that the cohesion they forged in the presidential election can be nutured. To my utter consternation there ensues a lot of personal attacks, aspersions and even vitriol on the person of Ousainou Darboe principally fermented by the online media and party surrogates after the coalition could not agree on way forward to contest the parliamentary election. I ask myself is there more to this than politics. After there were counter argument, tirades and mudslinging against Halifa Sallah, I became totally disenchanted. I called some friends in the Gambia to gauge their reactions to personal attacks. One told me, “the diaspora online media want to micro-manage and control the political discuss in this country because they send money. We will show them that, we voted for the change and we control the narrative. Some of them are haughty and think big of themselves; they think that, their ideas should always be accepted, we will not accept that”. They further went on, “the character assassination of Darboe has tribal connotation and it will make all Mandinkas rally around Darboe and UDP”. The forgoing comment gave me an inkling that perhaps there is a potential disconnect between diaspora and denizens on the ground. It seems the diaspora online media over estimate their influence.
If politics cannot be idea contest, policy polishing and constructive engagement then it’s not for me. How can people who were bedfellows at one time and achieved the liberation of our country from the clutch of dictatorship suddenly started to tear down each other. I was even more disappointed when I heard leader of PPP spraying personal attacks on leader of UDP and I thought that was not politically prolific and it was quite short-sighted.
Gambia is one big family, it can only realise its dream of national progress if we put aside our tribal differences and work in unity. Tribal hegemony hardly work in any country and it shall never create prosperity for any tribe. Our long entrenched Gambian cordiality and tribal harmony should be a sacred mantra to be religiously uphold at all times. The government should work on this very important project to ensure, our youths especially; see tribal diversity as a course to celebrate; not a source of pride and disdain.
No organisation shall be stuffed by one tribe like Trust Bank. The school curriculum should be oriented to appreciate tribal harmony and one way to achieve that, is to make it compulsory to study at least two local languages at school.
The TV station, GRTS should have as many channels as feasible for nearly all major tribes to avoid alienation.
The role of media in aiding tribal harmony cannot be over emphasized in these times of disquiet but it is sad to see many media portals glaringly tribe- inclined. Nearly all programmes in some online radios are produced in one local language and if you asked questions in another local language you can sense apathy and subtle disengagement from the moderator. If this is not changed, the online radios will have tribe-base audiences. Mandinka for Kibaaronews and Kairo news, wollofs for Freedomnews and Fatounetworks etc.
Politicians should encourage speaking local languages in parliament and those who cannot speak another local language can be assisted with tuition to improve local languages skills.
The imams too have a job on their pulpit. They should preach the positivity of Allah’s wisdom in creating us different. It was to manifest His magnificence to us as tribe to see whether we will use our tribal differences for good or bad, it is cardinal law that, for everyone is reward for the deeds of his or her hands and tongue and indeed all your appendages.
No one chose his or her tribe but it was chosen by the creator, Allah, Jalla Jallallu therefore it is not an acquired quality which one can be proud of, rather a source of appreciation and rejoicing the Allah glory of the master planner, ALLAH the Lord of universe
By: Lamin Darboe