The politics of protests has raised its ugly heads in the New Gambia, thus affecting our socio-economic and political development as a country. One could construct an evidence-based chronology of events that the ramifications of protests in The Gambian economy are devastatingly grave and has a negative and significant correlation of consequences to stifle economic growth, thus, affecting the macroeconomic business environment.

It is worthy to note that nations are not built on the strolls of protests upon protests, nor is democracy attained through the medium of legitimising an illegal act which is counter-productive in the promotion and attainment of democratic rights, inclusive growth, and development.

Safeguarding citizens’ democratic rights is critical, and a government must be seen as an avid protector and guarantor of fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech, the right to association, and movement and not a violator of rights in infringing the dissenting view of its citizens.

Rights protection helps in advancing the cause and development of democracy, not a means to an end, but framed within the ethos and principles of laws. In substantiating this view, the building of democracy is anchored on laws to guide the conduct and affairs of both the governors and the governed accordingly.

However, there is an interesting pattern emerging from the dividends of December 2016 elections with the resultant effects of missed opportunities, sporadic misaligned and uncoordinated policies, poor leadership, questionable accountability and transparency within the corridors of power as cooperation, consultation, collaboration, and cohesion were missing in our development, and governance model of the #NewGambia.

Thus, the winds of change were marred with a back-pedaled development agenda that had regressed our aspirations and creative energies on the politics of protests and lack of focus on critical issues affecting our national economy.

The historical genesis of the Politics of Protests

The citizens of The Gambia were caged in the traumatic dungeon of silence and fear over a two-decade of a repressive rule that affected their lives and welfare. Thus, December 1, 2016, came as a surprise to many as an incumbent (President Jammeh) lost the elections and conceded defeat, thereby leading the citizens in an ecstatic jubilation mode and exhalation of freedom at last as a sigh of relief.

Psychoanalytic theory posits that people who were/are victims of repression often behaves abnormally either as a result of being thrilled to adopt a functional ego of entitlement and unleash their abnormal behavioral rights to infringe on others in the exercise of rights, and not being conscious of their limits within the established Statutes of laws.

That is the tested fact on psychology based on evidence of structural flaws on character/personality building of people in the Gambia, and we have a difficult task to work on that missing link in our national human development parameters.

Protests are democratic rights sanctioned by national constitutions, and of which, The Gambia is no exception. However, it seems the acts of protests in the New Gambia has become the bane of our new found democracy and a recipe of violence where protesters have mistaken their rights to association, movement and freedom of speech by becoming public nuisance through violence means and with the intent to instigate violence and unseat a democratically-elected government over the issue of morality against legality.

Two camps have emerged that is the (a) Operations 3 years ‘Jotna’ and the (b) Operations Barrow for five years. Both groups had laid their arguments in context based on morality and legality that the sitting President (PORG Barrow) had reneged or has not reneged his contract with the electorates. I have a problem with those arguing based on morality and deliberately ignoring the legal aspects of a president’s tenure of office.

Moral issues are issues we are all confronted with and most often than not we are found in gross contraventions in principles and actions. However, the bone of contention is that citizens or any pressured group should not use the basis of morality to replace legality. The difference between the two groups is even more striking as the former’s (3-years Jotna Group’s) line of argument has no legal merits and cannot be entertained in any court of competent jurisdiction.

The later also acted foolishly in defending what is constitutionally-guaranteed by law. Therefore, in supporting constitutionalism, the law, as provided in our statute books, takes precedence over any compounding issues (including morality).

Let’s take a quick walk down on memory lane in 2016 with the evidential strolls of politicians doing what they are best at through the use of deceptive politics and indoctrinating loyal lieutenants, and supporters to blindly defend their actions and inactions over the controversial Coalition’s MOU.

It cannot be disputed that 2016 Coalition campaigned on the platform of a three-year transitional government and they had vitiated every aspect of that unsigned contract (MOU) as they were politicians bandied around a marriage of convenience with hidden self-desires and unprepared for the governance of the country (The Gambia) after post-Jammeh.

The resultant effects are the continual experimentations of missed opportunities, spiral, misaligned and uncoordinated policies, poor leadership, questionable accountability and transparency within the corridors of power and members of the opposition parties as cooperation, consultation, collaboration, and cohesion were missing in our development, and governance model of the #NewGambia. The winds of change were marred with a backward development model that had regressed our aspirations and creative energies into the political protests.

The legitimacy of violence has its roots in politics. And, politics in The Gambia is not based on issues but rather on building a personality cult with a heavy semblance of tribalism, familial, communal and regional relationships. It is used as a game of emotionalizing feelings to unleash the steam of anger and frustration through the incitement of violence in the polity.

It is evident as we are all a living witness to the ugly rhetoric of politics of insults, hate, and division flamed by the rise of populism in today’s modern democracies and The Gambia can be used as a case study.

Violence as an instrument of protest has been sanctified, fanned, and legitimised by citizens and politicians who used it as their political currency to push a self-desired agenda in a nation’s polity.

However, politics should not be used as a vehicle to incite violence. This is because politics is about development and a strategy to outperform a political opponent on issue-based policies and not to be used as a coup of a contest on character assassination to make the country ungovernable by sponsoring pressure groups or citizens of conflicting interests to take to the streets.

The demonstration of political maturity is a rare feat in the crops of political leaders, thereby imploring leaders to lead by example and detest violence of any form, as enshrined in our 1997 republican Constitution and subsequent legislation such as the criminal codes under which violators of our national laws shall be punished based on specific provisions of our statute books relating to their culpable offences.

A right is a sacred principle and should not be dissipated to the extent of which the claimant is reduced as a mere subject without a voice on his or her state of affairs as it relates to governance and democracy.

To be continued

By Dr Assan Jallow

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