By Assan Sallah
Many youths want to be in public office and ran on a campaign of “Not Too Young To Run.” However, those given the opportunity are now putting into question the level of maturity and comportment during difficult circumstances for young people to make the right critical decisions under pressure.
In February 2019, Ya Kumba Jaiteh stood at a political rally in the presence of Hon. Ousainou Darboe [Vice President at the time], and insulted President Adama Barrow without regrets or respect to her position as a parliamentarian.
President Barrow reacted by revoking her nomination and she challenged it in court. Despite the political support she had from the UDP, she lost her position at the National Assembly and was replaced by another youth, also nominated by President Barrow.
Ya Kumba Jaiteh wrote a demeaning letter to the then Secretary-General and Head of the Civil Service, for onward transmission to the President. She proved to be defiant, stubborn and indiscipline while stripping herself of being a role model for young people.
Regardless of her misbehavior towards the president, her party leadership never condemned her, instead, they stood by her and supported her to challenge the President in court. She was made a heroine instead of being corrected.
On Saturday evening, another young parliamentarian, the Member for Tallinding Constituency Fatoumata Jawara verbally attacked [insulting] her former party leader Hon. Ousainou Darboe and his family, in the presence of President Adama Barrow, during a meeting at the Buffer Zone, as part of the constitutionally mandated ‘Meet the People’s Tour’.
Since then, many Gambians have condemned the insults. Mr. Darboe has called for calm and prevailed on his supporters not to respond. The political game is becoming uglier in the so-called New Gambia. The main reason being party leaders separated morality from politics and are not disciplining their members that are insulting, intimidating and bullying opponents.
Both young parliamentarians at the crux of insulting opposing political leaders are products of the UDP. Their conduct is utterly disrespectful to the nation and brought disrepute to the National Assembly. It should be a shame for the party that groomed them. No parliamentarian should conduct themselves in such an ill-advised manner.
This means that the UDP leadership has failed in its responsibility to take disciplinary measures against delinquent members for far too long. Instead of inculcating mature and sound politics, built with the principles of tolerance, they allow them to use vengeance and personal bouts against those that broke away to support Mr. Barrow. This does not set good precedence, especially for young parliamentarians who should serve as role models for the younger generation.
Recently, the UDP expelled from their party eight parliamentarians for not supporting their agenda in the National Assembly. Amongst them is Fatoumata Jawara. It saw insults being rained on Ms. Jawara, her mother and her late father. It, however, does not excuse what Ms. Jawara did. It would have been wise enough for the UDP leadership to call them to a meeting and negotiate. However, if the UDP can dismiss eight members of parliament, it can indeed set an example by expelling defaulting militants that are misrepresenting the values and true characteristics of their party. And the same goes for any other political party.
Unlike the bullies running around in the name of political parties, members of parliament have many people supporting them and most of them may move along with their supporters to any party or individual they will switch allegiance to. The bullies are costing the UDP a great deal of support. The same goes for President Barrow’s unannounced party with attention to the fact that it is a breakaway offspring of the UDP.
These step-siblings are at each other’s throat and using their forums to insult Gambians who do not agree with them, in the name of defending their political groups. Both political groups should be bold enough to throw in the garbage people that engage in such disrespectful behaviors. If they had done that earlier, none of the above-mentioned young parliamentarians or their supporters would have the audacity to insult any leader or Gambian. The problem we are facing today could have been avoided.
In a nutshell, all the political party leaders in The Gambia, including President Adama Barrow, have failed in taking full responsibility for inculcating discipline in their supporters. They are not assertively preaching peace, discipline and moral values to their supporters, instead they are only interested in keeping every Tom, Dick, and Harry on board just to get their votes and occupy the presidency. No such presidency will bring anything meaningful to The Gambia and her people.
We must all condemn the insults towards Mr. Barrow and Mr. Darboe and all Gambians. To draw a climate of peace, we must end the political dishonesty and bring integrity in our politics. Ms. Jaiteh and Jawara should also take the lead to apologize publicly and set the tone for a politics of tolerance and respect.
The author Assan Sallah is a Gambian journalist living in Germany. He was news editor and security affairs reporter at the Daily Observer.