We shall never forget the day, while our reflections, narrations and analyses capture our African political reality and Gambian identity. Politics in Africa and politics in Western Europe are perceived and exercised differently.
Since Independence many parts of Africa are known to have one party ruling a country for several decades and sometimes a patriarch handing over from father to son. No democrat likes that. Despite the advent of multiparty democracy in all of Africa today regime change is extremely difficult to take place in many African countries. Why?
It is a fact that organizing elections in some African countries does not make that country a truly democratic republic. Many African countries are known to be organizing bogus elections just to give the impression of a democratic dispensation and secure a republican license to enter the VIP club of Head of States.
We have seen pre and post violent elections in many parts of Africa erupt based on accusations of fraudulent election processes decried by political parties. In many cases the accusations are founded but ignored by the world for some geostrategic internal and external reasons. These countries cannot be called truly democratic republics.
We also know that coup d’états are made illegal in all African countries many years ago and foreign governments passed international laws against it three decades ago. Yet still the last coup d’état in West Africa took place in Guinee Conakry and Guinee Bissau less than ten years ago.
As we know around the world today there are no government laws banning civil wars and civil uprising against a sitting government. The reason being civil wars and uprisings are extremely difficult incidents to assess in terms of cause and effect. As such jurisprudence in these areas are non-existent.
Based on the above facts, how can we Gambians perceive and categorize the July 22 coup in our own historical context? Some will say the PPP party overstayed and maintain its self in power for 30 years without the hope of an alternative political party wining the PPP thru elections.
The reason PPP could not be out voted out in an election process are many amongst which 1- Government was seen as the biggest national cake and any person who do not dance to the PPP tune is denied is piece of the cake. 2- the absence of a law limiting the number of mandates a President can stay in power was non-existent. Jammeh also removed the law from our constitution despite it being one the cardinal laws Gambians wanted to have enshrined in our statute books. 3- Electioneering was made a Father Christmas season where lot of monies flow deep into poor hamlets to entice voting patterns. This money inducement exercise even went further into illegal opposition strong hole vote buying. In some arrears voting cards were bought and retain as a guaranty to prevent those voters to vote. Such was some the election tactics and the reality in the Gambian elections from PPP to APRC.
Those young Gambians that were less than 13 years old in 1994 are today 35 years old mature adults. This particular generation might not be aware or cognizant about how politics and political tricks were done in the Gambia during the PPP regime from 1965 to 1994. This mature generation is today the majority of Gambian citizens and potential voters in our elections. For this generation July 22 day can have a different meaning in their political reasoning process. Some of them will approve the July 22 coup d’état based on popular justice and feelings for regime change whiles others will reject it outright based on constitutional law and loss of parental power and influence.
Who is right or wrong, whether the coup was right or wrong are a passionate debatable exercise that can generate an extremely rich socio-political discussion filled with emotions and hard facts that educate and elucidate many Gambians and Africans alike in yet another milestone in African contemporary political history and law. As such we should use the day as a national occasion to brainstorm in our schools and universities in our radios and TV in our Bantabas and Vous on the way forward for our New Gambia.
For those who want to party that day so be it, those who want to mourn it so be it but the Government should use the Day to educate, debate, sensitize and learn from our past mistakes. Since our New Government is on the path of reconciliation, we should not impose on anyone draconian laws that are not part of the country’s laws.
Finally we should remember that we had two major coup d’états in Gambia’s history one was a very bloody one eventually crushed by the Senegalese forces and other was a bloodless one prompting many Gambians to accept the act for regime change despite the law. Of these two events in Gambian history, rivers of ink, audio and video recordings abound. What transpired after the two events is adequately recorded for us to revisit, reflect and learn.
Let the national debate start whiles hoping a bright light emanates from it for the illumination of our hearts and minds for the Gambia and beyond in Africa.
The floor is OPEN
Pa Njie Girigara.