“Laahidoo” Fell into Desuetude. We Embraced Change. And We Don’t Regret It.

We as Gambians, crusaded for a peaceful, orderly and democratic change of government in the 2016 Presidential and Legislative elections as well as the Local government elections respectively in 2017. The Gambia is a multiparty “democracy”. Not a one-party state. A country where an opposition party had never come to power since independence.

We embraced the change in 2016. And we don’t regret it. Even now. But we have the right to demand that the change must bear the fruits of our investment of hope. If it does not, we won’t be nostalgic about the inglorious past. We won’t regress into the orbit of our past political damnation. We will only work and pray for the emergence of better political leadership tomorrow.

There is a thread of reductionism and revision of history, running through the Gambia’s classical body politics. History is inescapable. History matters because we are all living history and making history. We need to think about that and our role in it. We must resist attempts at rewriting history.

Reconstructionism of historical facts is futile and shortsighted. This is the toxicity of some Gambians. Well-meaning people must lend their voice whether it is heeded or not. We are making history. Will history score us right. In everything we do, we can use the pieces of knowledge of the past to construct the present. The past cannot be altered. History will record the present, no matter what it is.

“The 3 years Jotna Operation” phenomenon calls our attention to the reality that our country is still a work in progress. We can strive to build a more perfect country by embracing reconstructive dialogue, struggle for socio-economic justice and the rule of law. Or we can, as a people, be giving a ringing endorsement to official and episodic pacification and annihilation of a real or imagined threat to the Gambia’ s unity. Deluding ourselves that we are building a stronger, united country. If such efforts had succeeded in the past, certainly we won’t be having the agitation we are having now.

It is now commonplace to see and hear Gambians describe their country in unprintable terms, declaring and condemning it as irredeemable. It is also very common to see many Gambians, who are genuinely and rightly frustrated about the sorry state of our country, castigate fellow Gambians for being unprepared for revolutionary and progressive changes in our country, labeling them who may not be protesting on the streets to bring down the government of President Adama Barrow “ slaves” and “ cowards” admonished fellow Gambians, especially the social media populace, insult Gambians out of inaction, into a desired action for societal reorder; they badmouth our country into self-reform and redemption.

Such statements as “the Gambia is a useless country; I have turned off from the Gambia; I don’t care about or pray for the Gambia anymore, I only care about, and pray for myself and my loved ones; Gambians are cowards; Gambians are useless; Gambians can’t fight for justice, freedom, and liberty; Gambians are ignorant; Gambians are slaves; et cetera…” will certainly not bring about the desired changes in our economy, politics, and society.

Before the ‘3 years Jotna Operation’, there were politicians, ethnic irredentists, and other political agitators. In our history, power addicted politicians were masquerading as democrats and patriots as well as hegemonists who were persuaded to think that their Godfather have a sense of entitlement and by appeasement that people from their ethnic stock would enable them to get into power through prophecy coming from spiritual forecast without a hard-fought struggle for socio-economic freedom and political emancipation or resort to extra-constitutional measures. There are unarmed civilians and peaceful political agitators, the ‘3 years Jotna Operation’ protesting for President Adama Barrow to honour and respect the famous MoU three years transition ‘Laahidoo’ to relinquish power.

We did not read it in history that the anti-colonial struggle in the Gambia was successfully prosecuted by the nationalists only because they insulted Gambians into joining the decolonization enterprise. And Yahya Jammeh’s despotism did not end in the Gambia because “cowardly Gambians” were coerced into the anti-dictatorship struggle by impatient and invectives-spewing pro-democracy activists.

In the prevailing circumstances, soldiers for societal renewal must learn how to engage the people. We must sit down with the people; hear from them; learn from them; speak with them and teach them. We must be meek; not arrogant. Even when the task of the nation’s recovery is urgent. We must organise. Not demonise our people. When we assume that we can order and command them into action for societal change, we exhibit the same oppressors’ characteristics we decry and deplore in our national life. There can’t be revolutionary changes without revolutionary evangelism.

Anyone that has participated in popular struggles of the people for change or studied the history of revolutions would and should know that the people, for whose benefits a revolution is waged and society is reordered, cannot be won over by insults, blackmail or intimidation. They become convinced about the idea of bringing about progressive changes, by persuasion, political education, and encouragement. In struggle parlance, this is called “mobilisation”.

When Politicians masquerading as democrats, progressives, patriots or change agents engage in creating periphery political parties to snatch and catapult to political power, you have to know and note that they are not doing so because they want to serve the people, society or country. They do so to grab power and use the same for primitive accumulation, to loot or loot again the resources of the State. They are no better than armed robbers who use violence to maim and kill. In many ways, they are even worse than armed robbers who use threat, force, and violence to disposes of their victims of cherished belongings.

How and why? Unlike the armed robbers who use only the instrumentality of violence, the masquerade politicians, in addition to violence, employ deception, falsehood, lies, sweet talk and sophistry to gain power, which they knew would be deployed, upon attaining political power, to disempower, dispossess and emasculate the people. When will the people refuse to allow politicians to use them? Why do people insist on perishing when they do not lack knowledge?

“The 3 years Jotna Operation” and other so-called pro-democracy movements and tendencies that now abound in our country are not our problem. They are symptoms of our problem. We need an economically just, socially redemptive and politically reinvented country.

We need to quickly rework our maturing democracy that we call the Gambia used to be a beacon of democracy as well as the domicile of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights and headquarters of the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies. The gift of the Gambia and pride of Africa. We must toil to democratise and modernise it. And all these are achievable provided the government and the opposition harmonise its relationship starting the spadework and turning the sod of our collective effort in this direction.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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