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Opinion: On the Perils of Divisive Politics and the Way Forward | GunjurOnline

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

By Abdullah Samateh, Kuwait

My attention has been drawn to a video clip that captured a portion of the meeting recently held by President Barrow with a group of former councilors. The remarks made by the president in that portion, given their explicit ethnic profiling and incitement, could potentially stoke civil unrest in our polarized nation to plunge it

into chaos. It is inconceivable that such inflammatory remarks were uttered by the custodian of our constitution; the man entrusted with the maintenance of law and order to ensure the protection of lives and properties.

Indisputably, the president’s utterance constitutes a fragrant contravention of his assigned role, as his remarks might put the peace and stability of the country in jeopardy.

One would have expected the president to wisely utilize such gatherings to keep the country abreast of the current state of affairs, including the achievements he attained and the challenges facing the country, as well as spell out his strategic plans to salvage the people from the grips of hardened criminals, exploitative business owners and endemic corruption. He is expected to use such moments to preach peace and unity in our divided

nation, and appeal to the attendees to act as ambassadors of peace in their respective communities in order to

avert any looming political unrest pre- and post-elections.

If the president came to the conclusion that an individual or a group of individuals were involved in an unlawful practice, he, as the head of state and commander-in-chief, should act responsibly by holding the culprits accountable in fulfillment of his oath of office. Failure to do so would amount to dereliction of duty. This is the

way forward, not making controversial remarks that further divide the nation.

Our politicians must bear in mind that their utterances carry weight. As a result, their messages should convey political wisdom that the prevailing circumstances require.

Similarly, politicians and other concerned stakeholders should rise above their differences for once, and explore

practical means to contain the political animosity sweeping the country. This should be treated as a matter of urgency before it spirals out of control as we get closer to the elections. They should consider, among other things, issuing a joint communiqué, condemning in the strongest terms politics of assaults and insults that incites more hostility in our political landscape. They should unequivocally inform their respective followers and sympathizers that they are just competitors and, as a result, bear no animosity towards one another, while

ensuring that this noble initiative is translated into action.

Equally, the media must adhere to the ethics and principles of professional journalism during these trying times. It must not allow itself to be exploited by

irresponsible actors and adversaries for the purpose of settling political or personal scores. Rather, it should act in line with its traditional role of adopting a neutral stance towards persons and matters and enlightening the public on the issues thoroughly. This may help prevent any further escalation of tension.

It should be noted that politics should be about showing the best part of one’s character and agenda. It’s about advancing one’s agenda and questioning the practicality and feasibility of one’s opponents’ campaign promises based on logical reasoning and facts in a bid to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. Smear campaign is a repugnant scheme which often exposes the person behind it as intellectually inferior and politically unripe.

Regrettably, the level of moral decadence demonstrated by some in our political discourse is not only unprecedented, but is also alien to our cultural norms and values and is incompatible with the teachings of our religion, which admonishes us to be kind to the elders and hold them in reverence. Our leaders deserve respect including the president, religious scholars and political leaders, especially the elderly among them, who stood their ground when it mattered and traded their health and wealth for the betterment of the country. Yes, constructive criticism is vital to a healthy democracy. Yet, it must not escalate to launching personal onslaughts

on the elders and leaders who deserve respect by virtue of their venerable age and the positions they hold.

Abdullah Samateh is a Gambian based in the state of Kuwait.

Editor's note:

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