The Gambia since independence has been a bastion of democracy, respect for human rights, vibrant civil service and plurality. Unfortunately, this beautiful scenario in the country for about 30 years has been shattered with the advent the military rule in 1994 that ended in 2016 in a democratically contested election. As a result of the military rule, the country has been descended into chaos, lawlessness, dictatorship and gross human rights violations. This has raised important moral questions that require soul searching by moral philosophers, theologians and human/social scientists. How come, the Gambia that is the smiling coast of Africa has that scar in its recent history? How come humans lost their sense of humanity, morality and decency in those dark days of misrule and barbarity? How can we restore the legacy of civility, decency and respect for human dignity to the Gambia? As we follow the TRRC sessions, we cannot believe that that horrible things happened in the Gambia. We cannot believe that people were gunned down at such a close range. Needless to say, morality is central to the continuity and survival of any civilisation or nation. History will tell us that big civilisations fell because of moral corruption that subsequently crept into misrule and autocracy. The Greek civilisation, the ottomans, the great Mali civilisation and the Pharaonic rule in Egypt all collapsed because of moral bankruptcy. On the contrary, if nations want to survive, they must muster that moral command and must seriously consider values of justice, fairness and equitable distribution of both power and wealth.
During the testimonies made by many former and current soldiers, it was said that the coup of 1994 happened because of the alleged corrupt nature of the Jawara government and they promised accountability, transparency and probity. Unfortunately, that of that happened. On the contrary, the Gambia became poor and isolated regionally and internationally. In fact, the Gambian economy was plundered, the civil service manipulated if not destroyed and the professionalism of the army undermined. A we rebuild the new Gambia, the following is observed:
1. Professionalisation of Government institutions detached from personalisation or politicisation
2. Suspension of individuals implicated in human rights violations and brought to justice
3. Immediate and swift restructuring and reforming of the army and other security apparatuses (please see my article on the Faraba Banta incident)
4. Urgent need to improve the well being of the service men and women at all levels
5. Appointments should be based on merit and experience and not on party/ethnic/religious/regional affiliations
6. Rebuilding the broken human infrastructure in tandem with the building of the physical infrastructure. I mean by that the social, moral and psychological rehabilitation of the individual that was broken
7. Reform of the education sector at all levels to capture the requirements and the ethos of the new Gambia
I believe that the Gambia is on the right path of recovery, but the hopes are high. The momentum is there, and I believe with our collective wisdom and efforts the Gambia can be turned around. In the final analysis, all that manipulations, undermining, deceptions and killings happened because of power-power ill-gotten. There are democratic processes and constitutional provisions to get power and those should be followed. As one soldier observed, junior soldiers should not be allowed to be manipulated. Rather, we need a disciplined and professional force.