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Gambia lacks moral rights to condemn neo-colonialism

By - | October 9th 2013

Last week, The Gambia withdrew from the British-led Commonwealth bloc, a 54-member grouping including Britain and most of its former colonies.

The reason President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia gave as the collective rationale for withdrawing was that this Anglophile interstate organisation is a vestige of colonialism and hence neo-colonial in its political orientation.

Jammeh executed this decision without consulting his nationals. In justification, he argued that the government had withdrawn its membership of the Commonwealth and decided The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism.

This is also a common argument used by most African states every time the West criticises Africa on matters of governance and human rights. African countries often cite neo-colonialism, imperialism or lack of respect for African sovereignty in every eventuality of diplomatic censure from the West.

Kenya and Uganda presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni are now accusing the International Criminal Court of being neo-colonial and imperialistic or antagonistic toward African sovereignty.

Often, this argument is false and contradicts the political and democratic facts on the ground. Just like in The Gambia, neo-colonialism is not the main vice ailing African politics. Current failings across the continent have more to do with homespun African political culture than Africa’s relations with its former colonial masters.

Nation in State of fear

For example, The Gambia joined the Commonwealth in 1965. It was a very promising and comely composition of a country surrounded by Senegal and Nigeria.

The Gambia has been a popular destination for European tourists. Many of them have been the British. This, of course, is an attribution to the country’s tropical climate and white Atlantic beaches.

However, when Jammeh came to power in 1994 through a coup d’etat, the political climate in this country changed to nationwide feelings of sombre and solidified fear of the political unknowns among the people.

All these emanated as political adaptations of President Jammeh who accused Britain of backing Gambia’s political opposition. Jammeh’s jitters-laden politics heightened in the months preceding the 2011 elections.

Human rights conditions dwindled as seen in the series of politically perpetrated and lawless execution of opposition leaders.

First, Jammeh’s regime performs poorly on matters of human rights. Just like counterparts in Uganda, Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia has often been presented by Amnesty International as a ruthless perpetrator of persecutions against political opponents, homosexuals, lesbians, trans-genders, unlawful detentions, Press crackdowns and discrimination against minority groups.

It is not neo-colonialism that is a problem facing politics in The Gambia but political avarice and selfishness from the Presidency. The Gambia not only violates the rights of Gambians but also the rights of foreigners.

{Alexander K Opicho, Eldoret}

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