Gambia: What Is the Limit of Dissent in a Democratic Society?


Dissent is about power relation. When two forces are equal under the law and none is capable of subjugating the other, those forces then are capable of expressing divergent views on any matter. However, when benchmarks for legality in word and action are established and an authority ascribed to enforce the law, any action taken outside of the ambit of the law could be classified as dissent.

Dissent is a term that signifies the relation between an authority and a subordinate and should not feature in a genuine democratic society where authority is supposed to be derived from the consent of the led. In a genuine democratic society, leaders owe their status to the led and rights could be exercised to remove leaders constitutionally.

The people also have the right to express opinions on their manner of government and ask existing governments for redress. The change that has been brought about in 2016 should be followed by the active participation by civil society organisations aimed at educating the citizenry at large on how to exercise their right to express divergent views and hold the leadership accountable to them. Sensitisation should also be conducted to know how to remove leaders without falling foul with the law. Without carrying out such sensitisation, disturbance could be a frequent reality for the country.

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