Rethinking the Soaring Tribal Divide in The New Gambia


Rethinking the Soaring Tribal Divide in The New Gambia

Written by Ebou Ngum in Columbus Ohio

The Gambia undoubtedly is one of the smallest countries in Africa. With a population of about 2 million people, the country has so many ethnic groups who also speak different languages. I believe the Gambians have ever since lived a peaceful life and a fruitful cohabitation existed among the various ethnic groups. Tribal tensions and or fights are not common in the Gambia or are virtually nonexistent.

Aside from the tribal tantrums started by Yahya Jammeh against the Mandinka during his reign, I believe there has been relative peace among the tribes and religions in the Gambia. However, in this country we call “the new Gambia, this long-lasting cordial relation among the various tribes seems to be taking an ugly turn due to tribal politics.

Tribal politics and differences have caused a lot of violence in most parts of Africa. The Rwandan crisis is a case in point wherein the majority Hutu went against the minority Tutsi and moderate Hutu in acts that constituted Africa’s most serious genocide. The African continent does not hope to witness the kind of ugly human rights violations that took place in Rwanda. We should not forget that this all emanated in part due to tribal conflicts.

One thing the Gambians need to be mindful of is the use of private radio stations to relay ugly messages which could easily incite violence.  During the Rwandan genocide, radio stations played a leading role in airing out languages that further incited the violence. A study conducted by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies found that during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, radio broadcasts played an important role in inciting ordinary citizens to take part in the massacres of their Tutsi, and moderate Hutu, neighbors. What was to unfold as a result of the hateful propaganda messages coming from the radio stations left a lasting scar on the country.

The Gambia, with its small population, is becoming too polarized now. Tribal politics seems to be the new norm. Those propagating for supremacy of a particular tribe in the Gambia through social media must learn about the dangers of tribal identity. Cohen (2011) noted that tribal identity precedes the national; tribe comes before nation state and is usually a stronger affiliation. This is commonly known and is often why nation states based on a particular tribe have been so ready to persecute ethnic minorities of another tribe. The Gambia is way too small for issues like this, but based off on some of the hateful messages spreading on social media. it could easily cause a lot of hatred among people who have lived peacefully for so many centuries.


Cohen, J. (2011). The Middle East conflict in the context of tribal disputes. Group decision & negotiation, 20(4), 373–380.doi:10.1007/s10726-011-9240-z

Concordia University (n.d.). Rwanda radio transcripts. The role of radio. Retrieved from

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