The pardon: a leap to democracy and a positive first step

The pardon: a leap to democracy and a positive first step

It’s a positive first step on the long long road to a true democratic system. We fault him when he takes the motherland in the wrong direction. We can commend him when he takes a step in the right one, even if we feel it is a small step, and there are many others left to take.

It doesn’t have to be either / or – either you’re ALL for him (and comparing him to Mandela) or ALL against him (and comparing him to Hitler).

The power to grant amnesty and release prisoners on a whim is one side of a coin – the power to arrest and detain and torture at will is the other side of that coin. We cannot celebrate one without acknowledging the other, and both are powers that should not be available to the Executive with no checks and balances, or outside of the law, and are things we need to fix in our system of Government in the long term.

But in the short term, better clemency than illegal arrests and detentions.

I am troubled by the lines calling every dissenting opinion “serial lies”, and claiming to “forgive” people whose “crime” is “lying”, which I interpreted to mean “going against the prevailing government narrative in any way”. Our democracy is still evolving, but we won’t make any progress until we stop viewing our head of state as a father figure, with us citizens his “children”, to be put in our places if we don’t toe the line, and punished and made to apologize and “forgiven”.

That is NOT the contract we entered into when we formed a Nation. Changing this will require very deep changes in our culture however, and how we see ourselves in relation to our leaders and other authority figures.

Saying “OK this was a good step, now let’s talk about detention without trial, let’s talk about repealing the media bill, let’s talk about adding presidential term limits, let’s talk about corruption, let’s talk about the ever expanding police state” sounds much more like a conversation to me than “Go to hell! You think you can fool us? We will accept nothing short of your complete surrender…!”

I can understand the anger and frustration that leads to the second response, but it achieves very very little apart from making us and those who agree with us feel better, not to mention it immediately ends the conversation. If we’re really fighting for the long term upliftment of Jollof the first response is far more useful in terms of making any progress.

Being skeptical / cautious because of his past actions is one thing, being cynical and dismissing everything he does automatically is something entirely different / throwing the baby out with the bath water. We in the diaspora /online are a small minority of the Gambia’s citizens, and the freedoms we enjoy / the view we have from out here are far different from what is in Gambia.

I think we tend to get carried away and forget that sometimes, especially as we gather and interact with like-minded people on here. One of the problems at home is that there is an echo chamber in which everything the President does is applauded and celebrated without serious criticism. It is very important that we do not create an opposite but mirror image of this echo chamber online, especially when it comes to dissenting opinions.

Releasing political prisoners is important. NOT creating new political prisoners and allowing healthy dissent is even more important. Granting amnesty in a speech is nice. Fixing the system that punishes political dissent in the first place is the greater jihad: by obeying the rule of law, by respecting the rights of citizens, by holding government/security officials who abuse their power accountable, etc.

I know this is not a popular opinion online, but a political system is built on compromise, and taking what you can get/being realistic even while you strive for the ideal that we all want to achieve.

Demanding that he apologize to Gambians and step down from power is not realistic. Demanding that he hand himself over to be prosecuted is not realistic. Posting insults and threats online and trying to best each other with harsh language doesn’t change anything in Gambia.

Yes I get it, people have been tortured, people have been picked up by the NIA and never seen again, people’s rights to a fair trial have been denied, etc. But stop for a minute and think: how much have the online threats and refusals to even engage really advanced the cause of the Gambian people in the past two decades?

Democracy is a journey, NOT a destination. As long as we treat it as a destination we’ll never get “there”, because there is no “there”. There is only the journey, sometimes with setbacks, sometimes with advancement, until we hand the baton over to the next generation. All we can do is play our part in the now, as best we can.

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