By Lamin Keita
After spending a month criss-crossing The Gambia, I have learned with utmost shock that the issue of tribalism is embedded within our society for one reason or the other. However, tribalism should be an issue we should not focus on as at now given the endemic economic problems, perverse security related issues in the country as well as bad roads across the country notably in our major cities, high level of unemployment, and low level of education among our youthful population.
Rhetorically writing, have we as a nation run out of ideas and creativity in the midst of advancing tribal bigotry? I strongly believe that those fanning the flames of tribalism are merely depicting and constructing an ideology of a paradigm that could suit them for dominance over other people in the name of ethnic affiliation. Moreover, when I look at our major cities like Banjul, Serekunda, Brikama and their surroundings, I see a lack of readiness coupled with despair and capacity to steer and translate our new-found democracy into formidable economic development opportunities and a nation of one people, despite our ethnic or tribal affiliations. This also boils down to the question of what have we been doing for the past 22 years? May be, wasting valuable time on issues irrelevant to nation building – such as fighting and snooping on each other with an intent to eliminating each other without pursuing things that make prosperous nations great again.
Again, it is compelling to believe that these weaknesses were constructed only (in the name of a tribe or ethnicity) to embolden the dictator for the past 22 wasteful years. To forewarn, we must not allow our Smiling Coast of The Gambia be reduced to a nation of beggardom, and a nation without ideas that can compete with developed nations. I think we should be thinking about how to fix our deplorable status quo of our bad roads, hospitals, economy, security, and how to make our schools and educational systems great again with an equal step of minimising the level of corruption and to make our leaders accountable to us by engaging them through newspaper contributions, in public spaces or in our political rallies rather than fanning tribal fire-starting remarks.
It is also our fundamental right to engage our policymakers or government in ways that will help them curb the new phenomenon of departmental endless strikes, which could be a potential loss of millions of dalasis to our economy each day such sit-down strikes take place. In part, these are ways to make our government responsive. It is equally imperative for every Gambian to disengage the tribal prejudice in our communities and in all public spaces (including our social media fora). Tribalism to me is a construction that some of our politicians and members of our society use to control others. Essentially, it is a trademark that some ideologically use to satisfy their whims and caprices for dominance, which has no theoretical bases in our new-found democracy.
I felt tortured and crestfallen, talking about the so-call tribalism in The Gambia. However, being silent or saying nothing could be a recipe for the continuation of such baneful and unholy acts – toxic poison that can horrendously destroy our entire human race. For these reasons, today, I have the audacity to believe people everywhere in The Gambia should have meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. In this view, I oppose the tribal bigotry because I love The Gambia. I speak out against it not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart. Above all, with passionate desire to see our beloved country The Gambia stand as a moral example of the world. If we are to have peace, our loyalties must become all-inclusive rather than sectional tribal narrow-mindedness. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our country, The Gambia. This invariably means that we must develop a world perspective.