Three years after the glorious revolution


Three years after the glorious revolution

Three years ago on December 2nd 2016, many Gambians like me were scrambled at one place with their families like thirsty cows at the riverbank. We anticipated eagerly the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. A few minutes before 12 p.m., the chairman of the IEC, Alh Alieu Momar Njie and his team suddenly appeared on GTRS after a long break. He made the following remarks..

“The result which am about to announce is the final result of 2016 election. After counting the votes cast for each candidate, the result will follow. However, before I announce the result I am appealing for calm because there will be a change of government in the country.” Then he declared the coalition candidate, Mr Adama Barrow, as the winner of the 2016 presidential election.

We burst into a massive jubilation like Premier League football fans at the Old Trafford Stadium. The intense euphoria continued for five days, the likes of which I had never witnessed in my entire life. It was nothing less than a glorious revolution.

Most people, including myself, never truly thought that such an extraordinary event would ever take place in our lifetime (bearing in mind the political atmosphere in the country at the time) and as a result, I am still celebrating. The republic of The Gambia became a darling to international news organisations. It achieved something which was unimaginable. The floodgates to foreign investment and domestic trade were quickly opened. For the first time in our history, business registration jumped from a mere 6% per annum to a whopping 18% per annum. Can you imagine, a few days earlier, a country which was making bad headlines for a host of wrong reasons, instantly attained a high status at the UN level. It was compared to the success story of the republic of Kosovo in the Balkans. Consequently, the UN now often encourages countries with political deadlock to emulate the Gambian version of democracy. That in itself is incredible.

Miraculously, a state which was deeply polarised politically has quickly transformed into a thriving democracy.  First from a hybrid democracy to a full flag democracy, where freedom of speech is the order of the day and freedom of expression is jealously guarded by every Gambian, and freedom of association is no longer restricted to the few but is for the many. The peaceful atmosphere in the country has created a level playing field which enables people belonging to different political tribes to travel the length and breadth of the country, without fear of intimidation by their opponents or the government, in order to sell their agenda to the electorate. Surely no one should take credit for that but Gambians as a whole, both at home and abroad.

And yet we had a million reasons to tear apart our country during the political impasse from 9th December 2016 to 20th January 2017. However we have chosen restraint, with tremendous discipline and maturity. It will be quite awful and rather unfortunate to dismantle this when there is now no genuine reason for trouble. It is disheartening that while we celebrate such a glorious revolution, there is genuine fear and anxiety growing in the country of civil disobedience which could engulf the smiling coast of Africa.

It would be incomprehensible to choose chaos over the democracy which we long fought for.Military takeover in Africa is no longer a major threat, as it was in the 1990’s, but a replica of the violence of domestic terrorism, such as what is happening in Mali, Nigeria and Somalia, as well as the anarchism which we have witnessed in DRC Congo, the Central AfricanRepublic and Venezuela, is a possibility in many countries across Africa. Above all the concept of democracy is contextual. Hence in a society where people are living in high-rise buildings like Europe, where you wouldn’t even get to know your next door neighbour, conversely a public demonstration would be better to attract the attention of authorities.

In stark contrast to a society like Africa, where an average person, regardless of his or her academic qualifications, would often struggle to distinguish the fine line between hybrid democracy and anarchism, maybe it will not be wise to promote the idea of a public demonstration, particularly when there is a tendency for it to be hijacked by violent thugs.

In my opinion, for a pressure group to force President Barrow to step down because he has deviated from his campaign pledge that he would leave office after serving three years is a little over ambitious, considering that the election is just around the corner in 2021. Beside that, we have a rich culture which is effective in resolving internal dispute without resorting to a violent confrontation or anarchism.

In an environment where individual interests often supersede the national interest, it is not fair to bombard our youth with outrageous claims and disinformation online with the aim to rob them of the trophy of the glorious revolution of 2016. In that regard, I would remind our youth that I do not know of any country where the campaign pledge is legally binding. In the UK, between 2010 to 2019, the Conservative government has deviated 22 different times from honouring its campaign pledge. A similar practise is common in France and the US, just to name a few.  Thus, to start a riot in a peaceful country based on a campaign pledge and assume that credible institutions like the UN, AU, EU, and the US would come to your aid is nothing other than pure fantasy and wishful thinking!

The counter argument often is the issue of morality in the campaign pledge. Again I can’t remember any politicians who have ever been shortlisted for sainthood in the past. Therefore the issue of morality in politics resembles nothing more than a promise that someone makes to his high school sweetheart. Furthermore, for those living in the diaspora, it would be brutally naive to think that we could hide behind our keyboards and stir up trouble in our dear motherland and expect that it would be business as usual. I don’t have to spell out why I say that. I will leave that entirely to your imagination.

Taking all that into account, 99% of Gambians living in the diaspora are either paying a hefty rent to a private landlord, or they are lodging in social housing with the expense of taking care of their families and loved ones back home. Some will even go as far as exhausting their credit cards to support a small business in the country, which is complementing a struggling economy and creating employment for youths. Hence I am confident that surely we will not witness ugly scenes in our country, which would be similar to fighting over deckchairs on the sinking Titanic!

One Gambia, one people.

Yaya Sillah

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