by Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: The state of insecurity in the Gambia is very grave. Very best of dire straits situation. To be poor is severe enough; when we add insecurity and inadequacy, the situation becomes direr if not hopeless and helpless. We will face the prospect of fear and powerlessness of being killed and the loss of our values and our precious properties. We are effectively living in quality of life, that is, getting worse daily, crime is higher now than in the past, in public services are weaker and economic opportunity more distant. Like it is both in urban and the rural areas of inter-generational transmission of inequality and concentrated poverty, besides both online and offline criminality, it is becoming a mainstream threat of becoming a victim to the rapacity of banditry.
Fatoumatta: These agent provocateurs or charismatic loudmouths come on WhatsApp network forums, and Facebook become echo-chambers of politicians calling for ‘fire for fire,’ ‘matching violence for violence,’ ‘killing one of the people with different views and tribe or belonging to a different political persuasion,’ they sit in the comfort of their wretchedly cozy homes to promote strife, it is them who indeed are the filth from the filthiest gutters.
Fatoumatta: Why do we praise politics of contrived asceticism? Why do we fail to see how anachronistic that can be for our development, especially if the thought behind the asceticism is fossilized in the 19th century. The Gambia, if it continues to exist, will not always be like what our founding fathers structured for our generation: Peace Stability and Tolerance. Historians will look back and mark our politics, an era as that of widespread insecurity and normalization of insults and incitement of violence as well as political vandalism that represents in our body politics today. These will be a lasting legacy as we live out the next sedate five years of insecurity and incitement of fear also of lawless actions.
Fatoumatta: We are not safe. Both the people and the government know this. The spontaneous nocturnal arson attacks on private and public places and political vandalism, as well as hate speech on social media, is a brief example of the unpalatable insecurity and fear in our country. Security and safety-wise, we are in a real but undeclared state of emergency!
Fatoumatta: This is the time for statesmanship and statecraft. Prevarication, specious politics to exigency, highfalutin equivocation on the issue, the politicization of the debate, ethnic chest-beating, and high-sounding doublespeak would achieve nothing. We are losing conscious mind and losing conscience. We are losing the property. We are losing our humanity. The time to act is now. We delay at our peril.
Fatoumatta: Our terrified citizens are now adapting to the insecurity pandemic. Many our people are ensconced in our cities and villages, shunning threats of incitement imminent lawless action to their ancestral villages and towns because of insecurity and crime of vandalism and issuing malicious verbal abuses also bullying and victimization of the people through WhatsApp broadcasting network forums and other social media echo chambers threatening the peace, security, or stability of the Gambia.
Fatoumatta: What is it that turns people into aggressive, uncouth, and unpleasant adults? The baffling propensity that people have to be rude, arrogant, pedantic, self – conceited and self-opinionated, calls for concern. What brand of indecency propels a man to broadcast on social media issue threat of vandalism and incitement of lawless actin and hate speech? A tribal bigot of the highest order also a narcissistic psychopath? According to this oracle, who is capable of divining the most secret thoughts. Why would anyone go to people’s timeline or using WhatsApp network forums to insult and bully fellow Gambian?
Fatoumatta: It has ceased to amaze us why some people go to other people’s timelines or broadcast through WhatsApp network forums to insult and abuse people. It is Keyboard Cowardice. We can have differences of opinion and make a case for our point of view without insulting people. When did it become a crime to have an opinion?
Fatoumatta: Who bred these kinds of people? Where is decency and respect for boundaries and human rights? What emboldens these rude loudmouths? Why can’t people walk away from their daily updates on WhatsApp networks? Why advocating secure tribalism and bigotry and suddenly become a bigot and a so-called condescending public intellectual? They have become a condescending public intellectual. So, Gambians prefer a public intellectual who sees no evil, who would rather pretend that his Godfather epitomizes a haven of good governance and the rule of law? Give us a break!
Fatoumatta: An era of sycophancy always suffers from a dichotomy. Those agent provocateurs use propaganda and identity politics as a political tool often to mislead those power addicted politicians masquerading as democrats and patriots. They become a consumer of their propaganda with nobody else believing them. They misled themselves to believe that the people are in support of their brand of identity politics and the politics of populism and insults. Ultimately, those agent provocateurs and their godfathers, therefore, commit political suicide, the ultimate error of politic of the writing of their political obituaries on the coffin.
Fatoumatta: Why would a man creep on someone’s wall on Facebook or on WhatsApp forums to heap insults? We can’t all be respectful and thoughtful, but the rude rubes of the Gambia have taken rudeness to the Zenith. Isn’t it preposterous to think we should write what suits a particular people or pander to specific interests? It appears and let no one be surprised that some people, especially those miscreants, are hungry for cheap popularity, suffering personality and image problems, and looking for money. Paul Coelho, the great Brazilian novelist, has helped us understand why they do that. He observed: “How people treat others is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.” We know many of these Pharisees mask their insecurities by being rude and boorish, so they appear fearless. Those raised where verbal abuse is the norm and objects were routinely thrown around in anger with a slap here and a kick there, would take rudeness as acceptable behavior. It is a shame, however. It feels like we are in the age of rudeness.
Fatoumatta: It is now commonplace to see and hear Gambians describe their country in unprintable terms, declaring and condemning it as irredeemable. It is also ubiquitous 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 as slaves and insulting.
As we move to the close to next general elections in about two years, may we need to admonish fellow Gambians especially the social media populace, that we are not going to insult Gambians out of inaction, into a desired action for societal reorder; nor are we going to badmouth our country into self-reform and redemption.
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 “mobilization.”
Such statements as” the Gambia is a useless country; I have turned off from the Gambia; I do not 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 cannot 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.
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.
Fatoumatta: Moreover, despotism did not end in the Gambia because “insults and incitement of lawless action against Gambians” were coerced into the anti-despotism 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 organize. Not demonize 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 cannot be revolutionary changes without revolutionary evangelism
Given the insecurity situation in our country, we need a total remaking of our community policing and security system. Anybody insisting on the retention of a unitary, anachronistic police force in the face of its glaring inability to deal with the security and safety needs of Gambians, at this time, is irresponsible. Unitary police in a country like the Gambia are contradictory in terms.
Fatoumatta: In the United States of America, where we copied our presidential system of government from, apart from the FBI, every state has its community police service. Within each state, every county has its police establishment. Furthermore, many cities, institutions, and organizations, including tertiary education institutions, have their police organizations. The Gambia should need community policing as part of its security sector reform. Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom do not have unitary police systems, to mention but a few countries that have resulted in achieving decentralized police systems.
Fatoumatta: What the arsonist and armed bandits have achieved in the past and recently, therefore, is to expose the poverty of the Gambia governance structure. Instead of allowing community police here, armed vigilante services there, what is required is an essential decentralization of policing nationwide.
Fatoumatta: The nonsense that state security that is toothless in intelligence-gathering cannot aid the existing police force in community policing. What we need are well trained, equipped, and armed police services and local government area levels to saturate the Gambia to immediately bring down the unacceptably high level of banditry and criminality that are choking Gambians to hopelessness and fear right now. Unarmed Intelligence gatherers cannot mow down nocturnal arsonists wielding bandits that are running lawless action in The Gambia.
by Alagi Yorro Jallow