Gambia – Rising Bigotry, Political Intolerance Worries National Rights Commission
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has, in a statement issued Monday, said it “strongly condemns the attack on a United Democratic Party (UDP) voter registration monitoring team by a group of people in Kanilai as well; as the violence which took place in Manduar.”
According to the NHRC, “Such attacks, whether politically, religiously, or tribally motivated, are reprehensible, illegal, condemnable, and constitute an affront to every tenet of democracy and political pluralism. The Gambia promotes as a nation”.
Of recent, the political discourse in The Gambia has been marred with violent rhetoric, tribal attacks, and a level of bigotry never seen in the Gambia before. While militants get radical against sympathizers of political parties they deem to be rivals, Gambian political leaders have done little to cool the rising toxic discourse as the country prepares to go for the December 2021 presidential election.
The National Human Rights Commission says in its statement that it is “Perturbed by the rising levels of intolerance, character assassinations, insults and political vilification that are characterizing our national politics. NHRC observes that WhatsApp audios are widely circulated both within the country and among the diaspora, the contents of which could only be described as “hate speeches” as they only incite tribal and religious bigotry and are generally full of profanities (or vulgar language) with malicious intent.”
The level of bigotry has transfused in the ongoing registration process of voters for the coming elections in The Gambia. Meanwhile, several political officials have leveled allegations from the incumbent regime and the Gambian opposition that non-Gambians are meddling in the process. The allegations are sufficient enough to be of concern for the National Human Rights Commission.
The State Human Rights watchdog says, “the questioning of each other’s ‘Gambianness’ or citizenship rights is also generating animosity in our communities as well as prejudices against certain groups of people, which is unnecessary and unjustified given the legal remedies available. The NHRC reminds the public that there are clear guidelines on lodge complaints about possible fraudulent voter registration through the Judicial process”.
The NHRC urges individuals with information that a registered voter fraudulently acquired Gambian citizenship to complain to the Revising Court and not take the law into their hands by arrogating to itself the Court’s powers.
According to the NHRC wishes to further state in the strongest term that profanities, casting aspersions on the characters on people, bigotry, statements that would encourage and promote disunity and violence, and vile and hate speeches have no place in our society.
“Freedom of speech or expression, while fundamental in a democracy, is not an absolute right with a free ride to insult, defame, degrade, vilify or smear the dignity, character, and good name of others. But, equally, no individual, community, or group has the right to deny the right to the political association or restrict the free movement of people within the country, fundamental human rights guaranteed by the 1997 Constitution and other international legal instruments that The Gambia is a party to,” the NHRC states.
The Commission asks political party leaders to come out roundly and condemn these utterances when they are done or seems to be done in the name of their political parties.
It also invites Gambians to exercise political tolerance, respect fundamental rights and freedoms, appreciate the importance of our diversities, and follow due process and do everything in its power to preserve the long-cherished peace and tranquillity the country is known for.
The Commission calls on the Inspector General of Police to thoroughly investigate all politically motivated violence, including the Kanilai and Manduar incidents, and bring the culprits to book.
NHRC reiterates that it is only under a climate of tranquility, tolerance, and the rule of law that a peaceful Presidential election can be conducted. And that as such, “all the aspirants to the December 4th Presidential election should be preaching peace, respect, and tolerance, as well as to urge their supporters to be law-abiding and shunning militancy of every form or color for the common good of our society, and Let Justice Guide Our Actions”.