THE SUBALTERN VOICE: THE GAMBIA, A SELECTIVE JUSTICE SYSTEM
The birth of statism, the triumph of the inalienable rights of the humankind, and of justice, from a global outlook, stemmed froma course that saw nationhood as justice itself. This was what triggered the zeal with growing sentiments of men and women alike towards the struggle for selfhood. Thus it does substantially prove permeable to the senses if the search for justice is pronounced as the process that yielded our past and contemporary governance settings. This makes it quite imperative in the governance process of both emerging and emerged democracies as an indispensable component that presents a means to ascertaining the pace of a country’s performance in aspects of good practice which is spontaneously syncing to the progressiveness of society. The litmus, used in determining the prevalence of justice in any country, is not merely anchored on the existence of structures representing its pertinence as a consequential and inseparable administrative stakeholder. What constitutes an ideal, responsive, and competent justice system far outruns the contained thoughts of a great number of the ruled whose understanding of an ensured execution of justice is greatly predetermined by the showiness of government, readily prepared to make known her security threat-neutralizing capabilities through the apprehension of citizens accused of defaulting facilitated by the constitutionally tasked security institutions. On the contrary, what ought to have characterize any working, purposive and subaltern-identifying justice-system is its reflection to the cardinal and fundamental principles of access to justice, the absence of selectivity and swiftness in the course of establishing where truth lies. It would not have been too wrong a maneuver by government, and the institutions concerned, notably the judiciary, if the prospects were forward-looking with a futuristic view of exhausting all legally required processes for the attainment of justifiabilityafter branding a sovereign citizen a culprit. Interestingly, in the Gambia, the case is a defying one with a pseudo-justice system. Government is eager to punish through its institutions, citizens who had contravened the provisions of the laws, but unforthcoming in her readiness to ensure the full access of the law. With the hiccups and preposterous indecisiveness towards the access of legality, the judiciary and its processes is entangled in questions genuinely negating the purpose-fittingness of its leadership in upholding one of the most delicate national processes that should have been given an utmost priority.
In the Gambia, the challenge of having a state assigned legal-luminary to an accused person which is an entitlement and not a privilege, incontestably, forms part of the cries of the subalterns– the common people. The vicissitudes, the tiring and strenuousquest of having a jury to preside our cases becomes even more complex. A reality that they, the followership, have been made to put up with by institutions introduced by them to serve these purposes. The setbacks of protracted cases that had outlived itsimpellers, being those who are involved in the race to achieve justice, the forgotten souls, untried and buried in their own wishes and wonders waiting for the eventual dazzling of the eye of heaven to salvage them from the darkness of the prisons, are all tips of the iceberg presenting a symbolism of the make-up and functioning of Gambia’s justice system. Justice has become commoditized peaked at an exorbitant pay-off that only potentates with the financial means to command the attention of legality and its proceedings stand out to be illegible. It has considerably helped certain factions with recognized financial might to outmatch the rest of society, opportune with all the necessary space and avenues to embrace justifiability and that too, with the prowess to influence its outcomes. This had affected the level of trust many had in the discourse of justice in the Gambia culminating to polarization as a result of the growing discomfort flaring up within responsible citizens displeased by the imbalances, the injustices and partiality that the system somewhat idolize. Such a state of affairs, with respect to legality, is strengthened by the natural chemistry that the humankind shares with that which is rectitudinous, and the instinctive reaction to condemn practices that operate inversely with the preaching and enshrinements of the law often informed by conscience. “I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I well know the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual appeared to me always as the important communal aims of the state. Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated” Albert Einstein theorized. This elucidates unarguably, the degree of satisfaction sourced from the delivering of justice and its uncompromising proximity to the beneficiaries, the subalterns who in theory and practice, ought to have been the means and the ends of this legal process.
Notwithstanding, the setting in of the transitional justice processes established as a response to the primate and urgent need of rebuilding, refashioning, restructuring and recalibrating the institutional decays and malfunctions as well as the social and political demoralizations which are legacies of the former demagogic ruler-ship, to some degree, reunited the thoughts of the ordinary masses with the feeling of optimism. However, it is worth emphasizing that transitional justice is not justice in transition. The process accords importance to a wide range of spectrums in terms of disabled institutions that require a revamp to be at an equal footing with their administrative tasks. Thus it is immeasurably important that justice take precedence in our effort to remodel our unchanging and puppetry legal system.
With our hopes unsure of flinging, our doubts in large quantities of subsumable volume, the foresight and tenacity to the ultimate objective remains clear and pure. In the pursuit of the most immediate goal of reforming the judiciary with justice and the means of its dispatch, local content becomes solidly of relevance. The appetite of being involve and the state of mind of those starved of justice should reason out of the remits of the system for possibilities of proffering feasible and lasting reforms. It ought not to be quite bewildering if the attainment of this quest gets stretched by time. This is because trust betrayal which has been institutionalized by governments transforming to become a customary practice, had left the governed with no choice than developing tendencies of distrust and perpetual disassociation from government-related ventures. It will not be a new submission to what had already been known, nor would it be a prophecy that governments have reigned and gone, and throughout these developments and transitions, the justice system, despite its flaws of being state-centric and corrupting, enjoyed uninterrupted seasons coinciding with the tenures of different leaderships in office who sympathized and overlooked the statuesque because of its conformal and compromising realities. The arrest of citizens and subsequently throwing them behind bars without any intensions of having them appear before the courts, the demand of kick-backs by judges from accused persons and their families before a case is been brought back to life were some of the unheard of dubious dealings and crimes that engulfed the judiciary with the inferno spreading to touch almost all of its units. What makes the events even more intriguing is their resilience to ride with each leadership that assumes office supported by system-aiders who depend on these wrongdoings for their survival. It is unfortunate and puzzling, that the institution responsible for reprimanding perpetrators, assumed the role of accomplish in committing crimes.
Nevertheless, there exist hotchpotches of reasons that will make viable the molding of the Gambian justice system anew. The hopes are not and cannot be solely clinging onto the spurious expectations from the reform processes that had given prominence to justice with no concern given to its corrupt looming processes which impede the manner in which it is delivered. It is therefore crucial for responsible and sincere citizens especially from the citadels of the subalterns, the plebeians, the deprived ones that the system had rendered docile, the victimized, to conjoin forces with an alternate strategy that will possess the credentials of being capable of combating selectivity and reinforcing the pronouncements of our laws, as men and women of a country whose actions are guided by justice towards the common good. Let the commitments be replenished in the struggle to ensure a swift passing of verdicts that are independent and free from prejudices. It is an adage that “justice delayed, is justice denied.” Consequently, citizens must take ownership by being involved, critical and vigilant to be in a position of performing oversight roles that will help to avert judicial fallibilities. It is no hard news that a society constructed on the unshackle grounds of equality and justice is potentially, a peaceful, progressive and a society of solidarism. It therefore becomes inherently important to nurture justice and its predominance as this, inextricably relates to our long-observed peace which had earned us our reputability and pride within the sub-region of West Africa, Africa and the world at large as a people who created a political nation based on the benchmark of freedom, justice and peace each day.
Kara (Ndolzi) Jallow,