What is surprising in the latest social media orchestrated brouhaha is not the statements thereof, it is the fact that many people are acting shocked at the utterances made in the audio being distributed purportedly from some Banjul youths. That feeling has been latent for decades and anyone who cares to look knows this.
In my response to this article I stated “…the narrative of those hateful bigots who hide behind nationalism, patriotism, constructive criticism and equality to mask their hatred and condescension for their fellow countrymen, especially the rural Mandinka folk while behind closed doors and in comfortable company will let loose the oft-repeated line of the bigoted; The Mandinkas think they own this country!” This was back in October 2017.
Now I am no prophet, soothsayer, or someone gifted with any ability to tell the future, but there are certain issues that are so typical in our behaviors and actions it only takes a little effort and very close observation to decipher the latent bigotry and pregnant statements often repeated.
When that audio surfaced, the right thing to do, was what that excellent and patriotic sister did in a short live video on Facebook; CONDEMN! That is The Gambia we know, that is The Gambia we were raised to embrace and it is refreshing to see that we still have such Gambians in our midst, and to her we say thank you for adding your voice to those who condemned such disgusting utterances.
What we cannot deny is the fact that such notions are held by people among us and although their outlook and bigotry cannot and should not be generalized, they still represent a sizeable group of an entitled and hateful bunch. These are the unsaid things that we all know but are wont to talk about openly. Until we bring such uncomfortable topics to the fore and discuss them, they will remain hidden beneath a very thin veneer ready to emerge at the slightest opportunity.
A few weeks ago, a screenshot of a page from the book Enter Gambia; Birth Of An Improbable nation authored by Berkeley Rice made the rounds on social media. In it, P.S. Njie was quoted making some very unsavory statements about the Mandinka. The response to that from some quarters was the exact same response from those same quarters regarding the current distasteful audio. They queried the authenticity of the quote attributed to P.S. Njie; offered excuses that he may have been misquoted; questioned the credibility or intent of the author/journalist Berkley Rice. They did everything, employed every excuse but fell short of saying such statements are unfortunate and should not be uttered by any respectable person. The same mechanism is being employed yet again; “this recording is not authentic”; “the recording is an inside job”; “these are the yellow boys trying to sow seeds of discord”; “these are insecure people looking for sympathy”; on and on and on it goes. Need I mention the hateful lady just a few weeks ago ranting and insulting all provincial folks and the ensuing outpouring of solidarity with her? The one thing that we are not hearing from that camp yet again, is offering the condemnation such filth deserves. Do not hold your breath it will not come. Yet, the same camp will be the ones coming out offering lip service to ‘One Gambia, One People.’
Introspection is not their strong suit, everything is projected elsewhere; to them, they are always right and always justified.
If you do not understand the genesis of Gambia politics to this point, you will follow along with their narrative and offer sympathy to their calls. But if you are familiar, you know better than to take certain things at face value. Words are loaded with meaning and clear lines of demarcation have been drawn. Not between tribes, but between an entitled few and those they see as are beneath them. If you follow my write ups and live videos you’ll hear me insist several times that The Gambia does not have a ‘tribal’ problem and that is the truth. What we have is a bunch of entitled people who cannot see beyond their nose and their selfish interests. They are manipulative; they are deceptive and very cunning liars. They know how to rally support around their cause and unfortunately a lot of people fall for their divisive tactics while all the time hiding behind ‘nation first, patriotism, no to tribalism, one people and all other flowery one liners they do not sincerely believe in. So watch out youngsters.
They hate when you blame our problems as having roots in colonialism; “the colonialists left decades ago, our problems are our own to resolve.” As true as that rings, they are trying to create a blind spot in history. The danger in that is the lack of perspective such disregard of the legacy of colonialism and the source of some of our problems engenders. But what else do you expect from insincere folk.
You see colonialism survived on deception and division. To give them peace of mind, and a semblance of legitimacy, the colonialists bring certain locals on board, which also helps save cost and consolidate their ‘authority.’ Such is the strategy of colonizers everywhere, Gambia being no exception. Banjul being the seat of the colonial administration, the local population had to be pacified by involving them in the administration of the country albeit in menial positions. This semblance of inclusion keeps riots and discontent at bay. In case you don’t know, there was a time in our history when nonresidents of Banjul needed a permit to travel to Banjul. That tactic, just as it obtained in apartheid South Africa ensured one thing, amongst other things; the need to keep the locals ignorant of the privileges and ‘luxuries’ enjoyed by the invaders. With the local residents pacified with menial jobs, the rest of the population needs to be kept at bay; with them the discontent at such injustice and abuse that may trigger an uprising or opposition against the status quo. But of course that state of affairs cannot remain forever.
As fate would have it, the invaders needed workers to fulfil their commercial ambitions, laborers came from the hinterland and of course comparing their condition to what obtained in the colony, they were not happy. Add to that, political power and ‘representation’ was accorded the local residents at the exclusion of the rest of the country; other natives who answer to the same authority that they have no say in. So began the agitation for the inclusion of the whole country in the political process. This threatened the order of things for the colonialists and their native accomplices who, up to that point were fine with the way things were. The numerically larger protectorate could not be ignored for too long, eventually the franchise was extended to all natives. Now that privileged position enjoyed by the native colony politicians is suddenly under threat, so they resorted to what they do best; project their woes unto the predominantly Mandinka protectorate instead of acknowledging the fact that they ignored their fellow citizens and their plight while they fought for their privileges accorded by the ‘master’.
With the shift in the balance of power, the discontent grew until it was clear the colony natives were fighting a losing battle. They ‘embraced’ the status quo unwillingly in order not to get shut out, but the discontent remained under the surface, brewing.
That attitude of “they (the provincial Mandinka) think they can come and shut us out as if they own this country will not be tolerated.” They need us because we are educated and they are illiterate, we know how things are done as we were trained by the master himself, so we are the rightful heirs after their departure.” Herein lays the beginning of the resentment towards those they think were usurpers of what rightfully belonged to them.
So when next you hear “let us fight tribalism, it has no place in our country, we are one Gambia, one people.” As truthful and as patriotic as that sounds, tribalism in the minds of these entitled folks means one thing only; ‘the Mandinka sense of entitlement to power in this country.’
When they say illiteracy is our biggest problem; that ties into the above as well. That because ‘those’ people are illiterate, (which to them means daft); therefore they can only make decisions based on ethnicity, region and tribe but not based on anything else for they know no better.
Here is where we are headed. As it stands, the UDP has the greatest chance at forming the next government. This latent discontent and bigotry is what is fueling the hatred towards the UDP and they are laying the foundations to make the eminent UDP government one preoccupied with crisis management. In the name of freedoms and the exercise thereof, they will aim to render the country ungovernable by protesting every decision of the government because they are building a case to render the UDP unworthy and incapable.
UDP represents Mandinkas according to them, even though evidence both in constituency and policy says otherwise; they do not care. It sells, they will use it. To dispossess the Mandinka of power, the UDP has to be denied power. So in the build up towards that, the UDP is the new enemy, even APRC is defended where UDP is condemned.
The UDP does not tolerate ‘criticism’ they say; not if the criticism is insincere and motivated by hate. With this group, the ‘criticism’ is one thing and one thing only; to prove a point and confirm their position to themselves that UDP is unworthy, its leadership incompetent and clueless, and its constituents bigoted. So in the event they assume power, any action against the UDP will be justified. That in itself is trivial compared to the more sinister plot that labels the UDP a Mandinka party and therefore by extension anything against the Mandinka will be justified; think this is stretch; reference Yaya Jammeh.
UDP like any human outfit will not get verything right, in fact they will get a lot wrong. The right course of action will be to redirect (constructively criticize). But that is not what they do, every objection they raise is laced with condescension and a sense of superiority, take note.
Gambia indeed belongs to all Gambians, no one human is better than another by virtue of the accident of their birth, both our culture and faith denounces such arrogance. Do not fall for their deception by associating them with their larger group, embrace all equally and be just to all. Be proud of who you are, but do not denigrate any other. THAT is their disease; they think themselves better and more deserving of power so that they can lord of the rest of us. To set ourselves apart from them, let us see everyone as equals and embrace them equally. Nothing hurts the hateful more than seeing those they hate going places they do not want them going; in this case our division plays right into their hands. Our unity is what they detest, so to win we need to embrace each other, debate policy and see country first. That last part in the true sense of the word and not as a front only designed to woo impressionable young ones.