Hamat Bah, Gambia’s minister of Tourism and Culture
“Furthermore, it is in the Gambia’s vital national interest to curb rising ethnic, and religious chauvinism (“tribalism”) to avert inter-ethnic, as well as inter-religious conflict. These are looming threats that must not be overlooked.” (The Gambia’s National Security Policy, 09/05/2019)
When the authorities decided to abuse Madi by detaining him and going after him with a bogus charge, they did so because they thought what he said had negative national security implications. If they had their wish, no one will talk about the death Haruna Jatta in Kanilai because it is likely to anger some people of the region who use the name of Haruna as a rallying cry against government impunity. Never mind that the same people never ever speak of the killing of Haruna Jammeh in the hands of his brother, Yaya Jammeh! To them, some lives are more valuable than others.
While the abuse of Madi’s rights is boneheaded at best and akin to shooting oneself in the foot at worst, upon closer scrutiny, one can see the fuzzy logic behind it. There’s no denying the fact that this country is extremely polarized along tribal, regional, religious and class lines. Of all these fault lines on the security landscape, tribalism is perhaps the most dangerous to our nation at this time. If our country ever goes up in flames, tribalism will play a significant role either as an igniter or an accelerant of any ensuing violence. It is therefore critical that the authorities engage in proactive and robust outreach and education efforts to ensure that our people see Gambia as a country of one people with many differences.
Tribal rhetoric, or fanning the dangerous flames of tribalism, as our esteemed and honorable minister of culture and tourism recently engaged in, must not be allowed to pass. If Madi can be detained for taking the government to task, Hamat Bah should be held accountable and made to withdraw his boneheaded comments about opposition parties and others. The game he’s playing is far more than dangerous than anything Madi has ever done or said. Given the position the esteemed and honorable minister occupies makes his rhetoric very dangerous and goes against the ideals of the national security policy that his boss proudly signed off on and made his! They say “loose lips sink ships” and if people are not held accountable, their loose lips will sink our country!