Opinion: Lessons drawn from Monday’s protest
By Basidia M Drammeh:
After much clamour, anxiety and anticipation, the Gambia has heaved a sigh of relief as the much talked about December 16 protest by Operation 3yrs Jotna passed off peacefully.
Massive crowds including men, women, young and old took to the protests to urge President Barrow to honour his three-year transition plan, amid a celebratory mood.
The crowds took the organizers themselves by surprise as demonstrators came from all parts of the country to press their demands for President Adama Barrow to step aside by January 2021.
There are important lessons to be drawn from today’s unprecedented peaceful demonstration. Key among them is the heightened awareness among Gambians, particularly the youth who make up a key component of the 3yrs Jotna pressure group. Ahead of the protest, some Government officials have branded members of the Group as a bunch of bandits and drug addicts bent on wreaking havoc and burning the country to ashes. Earlier in, Army Commander vowed to crush any attempt to disrupt the condition order. In fact, President Barrow’s advisor on Youth Henry Gomez reinforced this perception today during an interview with Fatu Network.
Characterized as a noisy game, democracy is thriving in the country in the post-dictatorship era so no amount of threat or intimidation could deter people from exercising their constitutional rights. Granting a permit for a protest must not be seen as a charity on the part of Government.
Politicians who have long taken Gambians for granted need to realize that the electorate is now determined to hold them to account for their campaign promises. No more empty promises would be entertained. During the protest, some of the participants used the opportunity to remind Mr. Barrow of a slew of broken promises.
The government should not be scared of protests since peaceful assembly to voice out grievances is an alienable constitutional right. Besides, the Gambian people are generally peaceful and will not deliberately undermine peace and security. The security sector reform process should include changing the mindset of security forces. Our men and women in uniform must realize that they now operate under a democratic system where protest should be considered as part of the nation’s democratic gains.
The Government must not underrate the 3yrs Jotna, given the huge following it enjoys among the people. As such, dialogue remains the best way to iron out differences. Therefore it’s prudent for the President to engage the Group in a meaningful dialogue to reach a peaceful settlement with regard to his tenure in office.
The security forces and the protesters must be commended for exercising restraint which averted any major clashes.
May Allah bless and protect the Gambia and its peace-loving people. Editors note: Views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Gunjur Online. Got an opinion article? send it to us at GunjurNewsOnline@gmail.com