It is said that the beauty of a garden lies in the variety of flowers. When a garden has a good variety it exudes a beautiful sight which attracts observers and they enjoy the view. Similarly, a country made up of different tribes and ethnic groups is beautiful and if harnessed well, this can be a source of great advancement and development.
In our Beloved Country, the Gambia, we are lucky to have people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This is a boon. We can harness this and use it as a source of development rather than division. Tribe, ethnicity, and language are simply a means of identity. It is to enable us identity each other and that’s it.
The issue of identity therefore, is what needs to be addressed. We must find a way of giving ourselves a unifying identity which will be common to all. In fact, that is already there – our nation, the Gambia. We must find a way of making Gambia and Gambian our identity – the most important one. It means that we must see ourselves and each other as Gambians first, the other identity traits can come later.
How do we do this? How do we go about building this unique identity trait and make it our most important characteristic?
The first step is admitting that we have a problem of seeing each other as Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola etc. For, certainly, so long as one is in denial, one will not be able to solve a problem one has. One must first acknowledge that one has problem x or y before beginning to seek solutions.
Officially, our constitution makes it very clear that we are all Gambians, equal before the law. There is nowhere in the constitution where it is written that this or that tribe owns this or that in the country. But that is on paper! When it comes to the reality on the ground, we see that there is always the idea of Mr So and So is a Fula, a Wolof, or a Mandinka lurking in the background of discussions like an elephant in a room.
Secondly, we must eliminate the idea of writing the tribes of children in schools. This practice may have had its uses [for instance it could enable government know which tribe is sending their kids to school and which is not, so they could find ways of making such tribes send their children to school]but in my opinion, that method has outlived its usefulness. We must do away with it so that children from an early age see themselves as Gambians first, other identity traits being secondary.
Thirdly, we must celebrate our own. We must celebrate our great sons and daughters – who will naturally come from different ethnic backgrounds – so that the people of the nation take ownership of these great ones. In that, no one will think or talk about ethnicity but Gambia. This will enhance unity as people will have a unifying object which can bring them together.
Finally, as the president, you should launch a campaign of unification, a campaign of sensitisation which will be aimed at making Gambians understand that this is the only country we have, that we are all equal here and that if it is good, it is good for us all; if it is destroyed, we will all be losers. This will advance the idea of one country, one nation, one people and one destiny!
Have a Good Day Mr President…
Tha Scribbler Bah
A Concerned Citizen