Thursday, September 3, 2015

The specter of tribalism rearing its ugly head online

Victims of the Rwanda genocide 
In October 2013, we blogged warning opponents of the Jammeh regime not to fall into the tribalism trap which the Gambian dictator has been setting by accusing the single biggest opposition party, United Democratic Party (UDP) of practicing tribal politics without providing any proof, except the fact that its leader, Ousainou Darboe, is from the Mandinka tribe which is the single largest, no matter how you slice the numbers.

We again wrote in the same month and year arguing that although the British promoted tribalism and parochialism, pitting the colonial territory against the protectorate, urban versus rural, educated versus the uneducated that tested the social cohesion of the British outpost, tribalism never permeated neither the Gambian society nor the body politic.

The reasons we advanced included what we referred to as the "fusion of the various population groupings into an amalgam of hybrids that denied the divisive forced the use of the tribal card." We, therefore, believe then as we do now, the charge that tribalism is inherent and widespread in The Gambia is a red herring which will not prevent your crazy uncle or a knucklehead to use it as a cudgel by using a totally meaningless term as "Terri Kafo", a social club that existed in the early 70s through the 80s whose membership was drown largely from all tribes - though the majority were of Mandinka origin - that are found in the provinces.

Mind you, there were numerous social clubs in the Banjul area at the time of which yours truly was a member but not one of these clubs were ever accused of representing or favoring any singular tribal grouping.  The closest comparison would be the "Presidential Action Group" that was accused to have been formed to protect the gains of, what was referred then as, the "Banjul Mafia".  Why is "Teri Kafo" being singled out?  Why is it being used pejoratively?

The simple answer is it's an effective cudgel that worked prior to and during the immediate aftermath of the Jammeh-led 1994 coup d'etat when he used the tribal card to malign the ousted PPP leadership despite the fact that non-Mandinkas were seen to have been, at least, equal beneficiaries of a regime that was headed by a Mandinka in the person of Sir Dawda K. Jawara.

Fairly or unfairly, the term "Terri Kafo" is once more being applied in a case that has aroused emotions, implying that the Mandinkas opposed to the Jammeh regime are ganging up against the other tribes.  The motives of those applying the term against a group that is not exclusively of one given tribe is left to those in The Struggle to decide.  What is evident, however, is, if it is being used as the cudgel in a divisive way, the strategy is not working for the same reason that it failed during the colonial period.

The size of The Gambia, once again, is working in its favor and against those employing sinister tactics to fan the flames of tribalism.  Yaya Jammeh has failed, up to this point despite concerted effort.  Others trying to employ similar tactics will fail also fail.  Gambians are too smart for these knuckleheads.