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The Ominous Echoes of History: Gambia is at a crossroads again.

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Ousman Ceesay, Seattle, WA

By Ousman Ceesay

In his iconic address in Iowa, President Barack Obama urged his audience with a powerful message: “We are the people we’ve been waiting for.” This statement underscores the responsibility that citizens hold in shaping the fate of their nation and ensuring the preservation of their welfare and liberty. This principle is profoundly relevant to the current situation in The Gambia. The nation has endured a tumultuous history, marked by the authoritarian and oppressive rule of Yahya Jammeh, only to find itself confronted with new challenges under President Adama Barrow. The echoes of history are haunting, and Gambia must heed the warning signs and avoid complacency, for the dictator is often within.

The dark chapter of Yahya Jammeh’s rule serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of complacency in the face of authoritarianism. Over the course of two decades, Jammeh gradually consolidated power, exploiting state machinery to suppress dissent, silence opposition, exile dissidents, and even resort to murder. The brutal and murderous nature of his regime was a gradual descent into tyranny, and what was once a beacon of hope became a nightmare for the Gambian people.

One cannot overlook the painful truth that Jammeh’s oppressive regime was not solely the work of one man. It was facilitated by the complicity and collaboration of fellow Gambians, who aided and abetted in the erosion of the nation’s democratic values. The insidious nature of dictatorship often relies on a network of individuals who are willing to compromise their principles for personal gain or security. In this sense, it is a collective responsibility to safeguard the principles of democracy and human rights.

Fast-forward to the present day, and The Gambia finds itself at a critical juncture. After the removal of Jammeh, the nation rallied behind Adama Barrow, hoping for a new era of democracy, justice, and accountability. However, recent developments have raised concerns about the direction in which President Barrow is steering the nation. The signs are ominous, and they point toward dictatorial tendencies that resemble the very oppression Gambia sought to escape.

President Barrow’s pronouncements, utterances, and actions all hint at a growing concentration of power and disregard for democratic norms. These developments are deeply troubling, as they threaten the hard-won liberties and rights that Gambians fought for. The eerie parallels between the past and the present should serve as a stark warning that democracy is fragile and requires constant vigilance.

Barack Obama’s assertion that “we are the people we’ve been waiting for” resonates profoundly with the situation in The Gambia. If Gambians allow President Adama Barrow to consolidate power and rule with authoritarian tendencies, they will have no one to blame but themselves. The painful truth is that the seeds of dictatorship often lie within a society, and it is the collective responsibility of citizens to prevent their growth.

The Gambia’s history is marred by the specter of authoritarian rule, epitomized by Yahya Jammeh’s oppressive regime. The nation’s journey toward democracy was hard-fought and costly. Yet, today, there are troubling signs that democracy is under threat once again. Gambians must heed the lessons of their past and remember that the dictator is not always an external force; it can be found within. The responsibility to safeguard their nation’s future rests with the people, and they must be vigilant in preserving their hard-earned liberty and democracy. As President Obama aptly put it, “We are the people we’ve been waiting for,” and it is the people who must ensure that history does not repeat itself in The Gambia.

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