Opinion | A Case of 'Wandi Kunku Sene'
By Musa Bah The Watchman:
After scoring big time in the case against Myanmar last week where the Gambia instituted a case at the International Criminal Court against that government with regards to their treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, the Gambia government may have done what the Mandinkas refer to as a 'wandi kunku sene itaa be ñankaring' (weeding someone's farm while yours is bushy). The problems in our own backyard should have been looked into.
I have been reliabily informed that the former government had placed "an embargo on Church registration/planting/ establishment of churches. This is said to have delayed many Church projects that would have - could have - added value to the lives of thousands of Gambians.
It is not clear why the Jammeh-led government instituted this embargo but it certainly doesn't seem fair to our Christian brothers and sisters in the country. Like I keep saying, citizenship and sovereignty are shared equally among us all. The question of minority or majority doesn't - shouldn't - even arise when we discuss the issue of the Republic. No one is more Gambian than the other.
The fact that Yahya Jammeh could - and did - impose such a ban or embargo shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone as that was his wontseeing that he has even prevented some Muslims from observing the Eid prayers on certain days based only on his whims and caprices.
What is surprising is that even after the coming into office of the current government, a lawyer acting on behalf of the Gambia Christian Council was told by the Ministry of Justice that the embargo is still in effect and that they should halt any plans to register any church in the the country.
It is unfathomable that in this day and age in what many of us proudly refer to as the 'New Gambia', an embargo on religious activities like this can even be contemplated by the government. For the progress, peace and stability of this country, we must stop seeing each other as 'us' and 'them'. We are all Gambians and have equal rights when it comes to matters of the state.
No one should ever feel that they have been marginalized. The Rule of Law requires that every citizen is treated with equality and justice. Without this people begin to feel marginalized and that leads to holding of grudges against each other which is a recipe for instability.
These are the types of issues which push some people to call for the inclusion of the word secular in the New Draft Constitution. With that, if anyone is treated unfairly, such a person or group can go to court to seek redress.
Pastor Seal Sylvester Jammeh tells me that there are a lot of pockets of discriminatory actions that are directed at them, the Christian Community. If this be the case - and I have no cause to doubt his assertions - then the government of the Gambia needs to thoroughly investigate these and take the appropriate action to remedy them.
To begin with, the embargo on Church registration must be lifted to allow them continue with the rites of their religion. The state must always be neutral in matters of religion.
Perception is very important in politics and the government must be seen to be fair and just when dealing with citizens. Whatever the reason for the embargo, it's time to lift it seeing that we are in a democracy now.
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