Today June 18th 2018 the Gambian nation is greeted with tragedy of the highest magnitude. The lost of two innocent lives and injuring several others in the hands of Police Intervention Unit (PIU) whose primary mandate is to protect the lives, personal property, safety and security of citizens is regrettable. What could have been an incident of citizens expressing anger through peaceful means turned tragically violent in the hands of armed security against their fellow citizens. No Gambian have ever anticipated seeing such incident in the New Gambia after the incident in Kanilai which left one innocent citizen death. The lost of that life was deeply regrettable and the nation was promised an investigation and a new chapter.
That unfortunate Kanilai incident several months ago as well as the one today at Faraba Banta are yet another test of our strength as a nation. Tragic as the loss of lives are, we hope that the Gambian authorities will treat this as yet another wake up call to take the nation’s security fragility and deep wounds as serious as it can be. As with any nation, the aftermath of a dictatorship or civil war are often followed by serious threats of national disintegration and political chaos. The Gambian nation was spared of the usual civil war and political disintegration but still threatened by political chaos and potential violence. This ought to be something very clear to the authorities in charge.
The Barrow government must take swift action to bring to account those responsible for this tragic lost of lives. Responsibilities must be squarely put at the door steps of the highest authority and chain of command that led to this historic failure of immense proportion. The President, the Minister of Interior, the Inspector General of police, the immediate command of the PIU and officers responsible for firing life bullets must take full responsibility of the failures and bring swift justice to the victims and address the situation.
History teaches us that stronger nations and people use national tragedies natural or man made as a vehicle of strength and unity. They empathize with the situation and rally the nation through strong leadership against such incidents and not only demand swift justice but ensure that such events are never to happen again in their beloved country. The government of President Barrow may not have failed to realized that this incident has angered but united Gambians from all sides of the political spectrum with unequivocal condemnations of the use of live ammunition and unfortunate lost of lives and lymph. That in itself is a remarkable sign that majority of Gambians want a peaceful nation and government that can guarantee every citizen security and safety in their country regardless of political and or ethnic affiliations.
It is a remarkable departure from our recent history. Let’s contrast the current situation from recent dark days of our nation during the second republic. We haven’t seen anywhere either the side of the authorities and or individual citizens defend the use of life bullets to kill innocent citizens. Unlike the killings of innocent students in 2000; the arrest, torture and killings of Solo Sandeng and numerous Gambians in the past two decades where the incidents are immediately greeted with defense and condemnation from the authorities and citizens in opposing political camps. This unfortunate tragedy has so far seen the exact opposite where almost every citizen has come to accept that what happened is indefensible, wrong and justice must be accorded to the victims. If the Gambian authorities and people are able to learn from this tragic incident, demand and execute swift investigation and justice to victims, then these innocent lives of our love ones would be regrettable but go a long way to heal our nation.
There is nothing that can justify the killing of innocent citizens, the arrest of journalist and destruction of personal property and endanger the lives of citizens. The responsibility must not only be put at the door steps of the authorities, but each citizen must soul search and understand their responsibilities to the safety and security of each other and the collective well-being of the citizenry. There are certainly something fundamentally wrong when securities entrusted to keep the peace and protect citizens see the need or face the threat to open fire on protesting citizens. Such security personnel are neither not well trained or they lack the patriotism and humanity to wear that uniform of honor. The problem must be traced back to the root cause of reason to be armed when dealing with civilians. The Gambian nation for the past two decades witnessed too many of such incidents where citizens both security and civilians saw each other as enemies rather than as fellow citizens duty bound to protect each other. The usual jungle survival in a dictatorship almost made it impossible for citizens to open their eyes and relate to each other for common protection.
The Faraba tragedy must therefore be put into its proper context and the authorities must be held responsible for the failures. Nothing can heal the wounds of mothers, fathers and family who lost love ones, but justice must be seen to be rendered in the most expeditious matter. President Barrow and his authorities must seize this unfortunate opportunity to reset and rethink their passive approach to leading the nation. The idea of waiting until something happens and take action is out of bound with twenty-first century leadership. The president has a small window of opportunity to appeal to the nation directly in a televised address to apologize for the incident and promise swift actions to address the situation. Addressing the nation brings everyone’s attention to one thing – the President speaking to the nation directly. That is why Presidential addresses are critical in calming and shaping public perspective! We hope Barrow takes advantage of this unfortunate tragedy and redirect the nation.
He must take the opportunity to attempt to heal the wounds and rally the nation behind him to pre-and post election unity spirit of 2016/17. There is only a small chance for the President to make his mark to turn this tragedy into unity and strength for the nation. But first he has to take responsibility of the lost of lives and promise to adequately investigate, hold to account and comfort the families who lost their love ones. The lost of one life is too many in the New Gambia and as a result, he must update the nation on the investigations of similar killings of Haruna Jatta several months ago and the numerous land and community disputes across the country. Our nation’s moral strength is once again being tested and this may be the last opportunity to rally the nation to come to terms with its reality. Our deepest condolences to the deceased and our thoughts and prayers to all the wounded and tortured. Better days must be ahead for the Gambia our homeland!