Monday, May 1, 2017

A perpetual state of political dissent is not an option

Sidi Sanneh 
Last December, an obscure 51-year old real estate agent and a political newcomer named, Adama Barrow, stunned the world by defeating an entrenched dictator who’d ruled the Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years.  Equally stunning was the manner he achieved the feat - through the ballot box as opposed to the conventional route via military intervention.

While the defeat of Jammeh stunned Gambians, it left the online media flatfooted, just as it had of the opposition parties who selected Adama Barrow as their presidential candidate, setting off a wild scramble, both in The Gambia and among the online radios and social media communities in the diaspora, that had served, up to election day, as the front line in the fight against a brutal dictatorship.

In this regard, we advocated for the reorientation of online radio programming that will focus more on issues that will solidify the democratic gains realized as a result of getting rid of Jammeh democratically and without bloodshed, as opposed to getting stuck in either continuing the demonization of Jammeh or succumbing to the temptation of replacing the ousted dictator with President Barrow as a means of holding on a captured audience.   This was seen in some quarters as an attempt to silence the press by bringing them in line with, and in support of the new government which was never our intention.  The blog in question entitled "[T]he online press must also transition" can be found here.

Covering the Jammeh regime was a nightmarish experience full of carnage and brutality that can only be equated with the worst of the worst of dictatorships.  The raw brutality meted out to fellow Gambians by the Jammeh and regularly reported on by the online media, tended to have numbed the sensibilities of a portion, (hopefully, a small portion for the good of the country) that have come to normalize the gory stories that were streaming out of the NIA dungeons (Bamba Dinka).

The temptation to continue to wet the appetite of the online audience is great; driven in part by the desire to retain a captured audience, even if it means jazzing-up and/or ginning up stories at the expense of national reconciliation.  Some unsavory and unhinged characters have been taking to the airwaves, inciting people to start a new 'Struggle' against a government that is barely 100 days old, accusing the Barrow administration of promoting tribalism - a red herring -  as well as favoring certain caliber of investors.

There is no significant difference between these accusations that pit one tribe against another and Yaya Jammeh's infamous incendiary denunciation of the Mandinka ethnic group that drew an incitement to violence charge from none other than the United Nation's Special Adviser to the U.N. Secretary General on Genocide, who reminded the former dictator of how incitement to violence led to mass killings along identity lines in Rwanda and other countries around the world.  Jammeh was reprimanded as a result which should serve as a reminder that incitement to violence is a serious bridge of international law.    

The truthfulness of the accusations leveled against Barrow and his government agencies are not what are at issue here.  What is at issue is the appropriateness of taking to the airways and making unsubstantiated accusations and literally making up stuff about simple facts that can easily be verified by a click of the mouse to access official websites.

On our part, we will continue to engage the Barrow government constructively, while holding it responsible for any policy decision, particularly on issues pertaining to the public policy processes, and to provide solutions and policy options.   We do not have neither the desire nor the intention of being part of the perpetual state of political dissent because it is neither rational nor realistic.

What we will be focusing on is to be part of a process that will contribute to the building of a viable and last democratic society, using the democratic gains of last December 2nd and the international goodwill currently on offer as foundations for a better future for all Gambians.