By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT January 13, 2020
It started with “A Piece of Advice to President-elect Barrow” published on social media by the former Minister of Information Demba Ali Jawo. However, it has now morphed into an “intellectual” tribal debate between the renowned scholar Dr Cernu Umar Barry, DA Jawo and vocal Civil Society Advocate Madi Jobarteh.
The debate centers around the statement by DA Jawo that “It is a well-known fact that several non-Gambians who had no business in our elections were mobilized to vote, and they indeed voted”. The former Point Newspaper Editor noted that “because of their over-confidence in their poise to win the elections and trying to ward off the label of being anti-foreigner, the United Democratic Party (UDP), in particular, did not see it necessary to take the matter to the revising courts”.
In Dr Cernu Barry’s first rejoinder to DA Jawo he started by noting that “I prefer to leave the political experts to critic, agree or disagree with you on the political aspect of it. I will focus on the non-Gambian issue. I have a plethora of questions but will limit myself to the following: – Where is the evidence of non-Gambians being registered? (You did not assume here, you were very assertive, which makes me believe you have irrefutable evidence non-Gambians were registered).”
The debate took an ugly turn on social media when online supporters of the United Democratic Party began accusing the University Scholar of being tribalist because of a personal experience he shared on the question of non-Gambians. Now Dr Barry says, “if I were to re-write my piece the discussion, I have had with the communities there would probably have been expunged certainly because that was not meant to be used to indicate there was tribalism or bigotry or whatever”.
Dr Barry stretched an olive branch when he said “to all those who believe that I did that deliberately, I’m sorry that was never the intention. The whole intention is there is a problem. We have a problem amongst our people which needs some little bit of education. If there is a mindset amongst our people which needs a little bit of research to find out what the crux of the issues are.”
In his view he believes “it is time that we sit down and ask ourselves is this the kind of environment we want to nurture? That is my concern. We cannot ignore the elephant in the room it is there in certain countries it has created problems.”
However according to Madi Jobarteh’s rejoinder, Dr Umar Barry was “making assertions which I consider to be only reinforcing tribalism”. On the other hand, he also agrees “with Dr Barry that the issue of citizenship needs to be looked at carefully”.
Siding with DA Jawo, Mr Jobarteh believes that “the issue of non-Gambians obtaining voter cards is an open secret. In 2012, when the opposition constituted themselves in an alliance for electoral reforms, they spoke to the issue of what they called ‘fraudulent registration exercise’. In their 12-point demands issued in 2015, Point 5 spoke to the issue of illegal registration which is about non-Gambians, under-aged voters and instances of double registration. It was precisely because of such potential fraudulent registration that the opposition also proposed the abolition of the attestation.”