Gambia: Could a Party or Person Come to Power in the Gambia Through Ethno-Linguistic Politics?

It is common these days for President Barrow to be accused of building the support base among the Fula ethno-linguistic group. However, the leader of the NRP and GDC are also accused of doing the same.

The leader of the GDC stood against Barrow in Jimara Constituency and won, but stood against Barrow as a presidential candidate and lost. What role did tribe play to make either person a winner of loser?

During the first Republic Mr Dibba was painted by many of his ethnolinguistically inclined opponents as a tribalist and Jawara was referred to by most of his ethnolinguistically inclined opponents as a sell out to other ethnolinguistic groups. But Jawara continued to win elections until he was removed through a coup d'etat. Jammeh who was considered to be from a smaller ethnolinguistic group continued to win elections against UDP whose leader Mr Ousainou Darboe and Deputy leader Mr Yahya Jallow, were considered by those who were ethnolinguistically inclined as belonging to the most populous ethnolinguistic groups in The Gambia, the Mandinka and Fula ethnolinguistic groups, respectively.

Now, some who are ethnolinguistically inclined are saying Barrow is not a pure Mandinka, because his mother belongs to the Fula ethnolinguistic group while others are saying he is not pure Fula because his father belongs to the Mandinka ethnolinguistic group.

If one takes the ethnolinguistic characterization of Gambian politics a bit farther, one would discover that the leaders of the NRP and GDC are classified as belonging to the Fula ethnolinguistic group. The leader of the UDP and GMC are classified as belonging to the Mandinka ethnolinguistic group. The leaders of PPP and GAP are classified under the Serahule ethnolinguistic group.

Hence if the people vote purely on ethnolinguistic lines who would they vote for?

It is therefore not proven by empirical evidence that one could win Presidential elections by solely relying on ethnolinguistic loyalties.

In fact, the more one drums up ethnolinguistic loyalties the more other ethnolinguistic groups feel threatened and thus congregate around a winnable candidate on the other side. This is how Jammeh survived for 22 years.

The Gambian should realise that the only source of sustainable unity is one based on sovereign citizenship. Once we resort to divisive politics, the division degenerates into regional loyalties, caste and nepotism. No nation could be developed on the basis of such divisive mentalities and mind sets.

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