Opposition parties in The Gambia have for the first time jointly reacted to a recent government statement that accused Britain and the United States of America of leading a "shameless campaign of lying" against it, and labeled the United Democratic Party (UDP) as a Mandingo group.
In a joint statement signed by Ousainou Darboe of the UDP, Hamat Bah of the NRP, Omar Jallow alias OJ of the PPP and Daniel Mendy of the GMC, leaders of the opposition said the statement in their opinion was ill-considered, uncalled for, worrisome and divisive in a country where tribal and religious tolerance is the envy of the world.
In its statement read by Hamat Bah on their behalf at a press conference held at the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) bureau along Kairaba Avenue, the opposition said for government to describe Britain and the United States of America as enemies of The Gambia is "rather unfortunate, unrealistic and misleading."
"There is no gainsaying that these two countries have immensely contributed to the development agenda of this country, and every right thinking Gambian should appreciate this. Let there be no illusion about the fact that we as a nation can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone," it said.
According to the opposition, the allegation that the UDP is a Mandingo tribal party created and funded by Britain and the United States of America is "ridiculous and laughable."
The impact of the statement, the opposition added, has negatively affected hundreds of thousands of our citizens worldwide, and continues to generate great concern among Gambians both at home and abroad.
This, it said, is evidenced from the ongoing intense discussions and reactions among our compatriots on all online and offline social media.
Opposition leaders further opined that there is tremendous justification for this being one of the most dangerous official statements ever made by any government in the history of our nation.
"Our position is that any matter or issue that has the potential of threatening our peace, stability, national homogeneity, religious and ethnic tolerance is inimical to national unity, development, peace, stability and security," the statement added.
"Therefore, being leaders, we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as onlookers on a matter of such fundamental national concern that has the potential to plunge our beloved country into serious crisis," they stated.
The opposition also clarified that its combined reaction is not borne out of the desire to come to the defense of any ethnic group and in this instance the Mandingos.
"Rather, our reaction is dictated and inspired by the urgent need to immediately halt the dangerous tribal politics and hate speech calculated to set our peoples against each other."
It opined that the unbridled attack on the Mandingos ignores the fundamental fact that beneath all the difference of tribe and region, faith and station, we are one people bound together by a common destiny.
In conclusion, the opposition urged all Gambians to remain united as one family, and to continue to live together in harmony, peace and love, as we have for decades.
"We must resist the dangerous attempt to stratify our society on the basis of tribe, and resist all efforts to divide our peoples based on tribe and other illegitimate considerations," they stated.
The opposition also stressed the fact they are not divided, noting that they are not as divided as their political coloration seems to suggest.
"We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions. As citizens, let us understand that Gambia is not about what can be done for us. It is about what can be done by us together through hard work with a common purpose, passion and dedication to uphold the values of our nation," they said.