Rethinking the Effects of Ethnic Chauvinism & Identity Politics!!!
Tribal Supremacy in a Multi-ethnic Society like the Gambia:
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Tribalism is defined as the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. This ordinarily is not evil. But when pushed to hate and take advantage over other tribes, it triggers fear, uncertainty and violence. Tribalism like racism wears a coat of terror. It is exploitation of tribal sentiments for personal aggrandizement.
In the Gambia, tribalism is often stoked by the politician to win elections, dominate power and resources. The politician conjures or latches on primordial sentiments of tribal superiority or perception of being cheated or marginalized by other tribes and uses it as a political tool to win elections. The yokels who serve as their foot soldiers of tribalism are mere expendables in the selfish but murderous and destructive war of attrition that tribalism generates.
Tribalism and racism are the antithesis of humaneness. A danger to humanity. They negate the Christian and Islamic ethics and teachings to love your neighbor as yourself. Driven by greed, they stoke hate and destruction. Hitler’s Holocaust, Rwanda’s genocide are few examples in history. They produce? Millions and thousands of humans get massacred in rivers of blood.
But in more recent times there has been an unsettling upsurge of tribalism and aboriginal sentiments. Why? It cannot be because of the unfounded if silly assertion that the Gambia belonged to a certain tribal grouping! The Gambia is no man’s land. If you follow the politics, money and power, why tribalism becomes apparent. It is politics. It is about ruthless politicians who stir up dirty dusts of tribalism to intimidate, to win elections, to hold tenaciously to power and lucre for self. For the politician, tribalism is the easy and ready machinery for driving the hoi polloi into frothing frenzy of rage against targeted innocents.
Fatoumatta: The politicians are ruthless. They care not a jot of the hatred, destruction and blood gores their call to tribalism generates. The most powerful politicians in Gambia. They are easily the suspect sponsor of tribal sentiments. Those politicians and their ilk knowingly or naively, with their tirade of tribalism, pour fuel into a potential criminal and bloody civil unrest.
We live and do business in peace with your neighbors; we intermarriage; we attend the same public schools; we share the cemetery, we shine under the same sun, romance under the same moon and stars, laugh in the same air, toil on the same earth. But elections come and you insist your neighbor is not entitled to run for elective office or to vote for a candidate different from yours. He must vote in line with your interest because of aboriginal claims. If they resist, you label them strangers, cut them from their shops and businesses, threaten them with genocide and put the entire city under the gripping fear of intense uncertainty. It is an absolute violation of decency.
Fatoumatta: The only reason why this flagrant rape on rights happen is that perpetrators and political oligarchs who sponsor them are ultra-confident they and their thugs dare not be arrested, prosecuted and thrown into prison. This reckless impunity explains why the Gambian remains a mere “geographical expression”. It reflects our inability to coalesce into nationhood, to build core values that define the Gambian citizen. The resort to primordial ethnic and tribal identity is the huge fortress set against national patriotism.
Fatoumatta: It is easier for a minority tribe elected into political office in Britain and America than as citizens outside their tribal areas in their home country, the Gambia. Certain minority tribes in some areas were still prevented to elected into Alkalo in some villages in rural Gambia. The recent attacks on minorities in Kombo South and elsewhere in the country proves the point, to get elected as a minority even in a mega settlement in the Greater Banjul Area that was capital for 100 years is a mirage. Politicians have driven the tribalism virus in the people, so that tribalism is more important than talent, character and capacity. Why is this so?
Though the evil of racism remains an issue in America, its legal backbone, the US constitution and its laws, ensures that the legal system and courts uphold the American core values – its culture and focus on the individual rather than the tribe or race, individual’s right to equal opportunities, liberty and democratic freedoms. One may attribute this to America being a nation of immigrants. But lessons to learn from their democratic experience: where the law upholds the core values and rights of the individual and refuses to inculcate racists views of say the KKK, a political system can rise above racism and tribalism.
Fatoumatta: This ought to be the essence of our social contract, the constitution. Sadly, our constitution is no more than a piece of paper blown by diverse winds, devoid of the cohesive spirit of core values. Laws that ought to protect individuals is snorted at in derision by men who overfed with illicit power and wealth, resort not to the law but impunity and violence. Men never brought to book because human life is not sacred here and because citizen’s rights can be trampled at a whim. What we have is a culture of brutish rascality.
The Gambia is easily Dante’s Inferno. A journey through hell. The massacre of thousands of innocents on grounds of tribalism or religious loathing means nothing. The murderous killers paid to execute the bloody sprees and their sponsors go scot free. The state and police merely pile up body counts and record rapidly growing statistics of the murdered.
Until we define our core values as a country, the powerful among us will continue to use the tribe as a weapon for self-aggrandizement, no matter the scale of bloodletting and destruction. Until the individual’s rights to equal opportunities anywhere in the country is guaranteed and is of greater import than the tribe, we will not know justice and fairness.
Fatoumatta: Until every Gambian citizen is judged not by tribe but by character and contribution, nationhood will be a pipe dream. Until we put premium on the life, liberty, equality of every citizen, the vision of the patriotic Gambian will never be attained. Until the oligarch sponsors who stoke embers of tribalism, religiosity and regionalism and their thugs who threaten, attack, destroy and murder even one citizen is brought swiftly and promptly to justice, the Gambia will remain a joke of a nation.
The militarization of our collective psyche since 1994 has to be deliberately and systematically scrubbed off. It must be replaced with enforcement of civil law, protection of individual’s rights and the inculcation of the culture of core values and democratic tenets to unify rather than divide. Only then will the Gambia know justice. Until then the country be riven by the evils and divisiveness of tribalism, religiosity, regionalism and impunity. The bitter truth of our existence however is that the Gambia is today run by sadist tribal lords who masquerade as politicians, leaders, elders and intellectuals.
The country cannot continue on this tribal trajectory. We can avoid this scenario. We need to construct building blocks to protect individual rights and cemented with unifying core values. These blocks will stave off the tsunamis that will be generated by tribalism, religiosity and regionalism.
Fatoumatta: I repeat, when we choose citizens with character, capacity and productivity rather than by tribe, we will generate effective leaders. When we promptly prosecute and convict the individual who breaks the law, no matter his tribe and status, we can then live in peaceful coexistence, assured of justice and fairness anywhere in the country. I hope the Gambia will be the model for this vision not be the bloody hotbed of evil tribalism.Hi