By Abdou Jarju
By publishing on September 06, 2019, a special edition, with the title “Remembering Sir Dawda Gambia´s greatest son”, the Standard Newspaper has rendered a well-deserved tribute to the founding father of the Gambia´s nation. I read the paper from A to Z and tried to analyse carefully all the speeches proffered by various speakers.
What struck me much was the unanimity of all the speakers about Sir Dawda´s qualities of tolerance, his adherence to the principles of Liberal democracy such as freedom of expression, political plurality, love for liberty and above all his activism of human rights. Many speakers have attributed Kairaba Jawara´s qualities to the influence of his religious and educational background, I do not discard such a claim, but I am of the view that Sir Dawda´s qualities derived from the influence of the Anglo-saxonic political culture.
According to history, as recorded by J. M. Gray, in his book “A History of the Gambia”, Gambia is the longest possession of the Kingdom of Britain and obviously Sir Dawda being educated in Britain has been also influenced by the Anglo American tradition of political culture which is characterized by the love for freedom and respect for human rights.
Almost all African countries immediately after gaining their independence, due to lack of educational institutions, have turned to various and different western or eastern countries for the training of their human resources and this fact has brought about a panoply of intellectuals trained and influenced by different educational systems.
In fact, this is the reason why one can notice in African countries intellectuals with western´s political propensity and others with the eastern political culture and many years after the end of the cold war, we still assist its continuation in the African political landscape. The war between intellectuals educated from the socialist block and those trained from the colonial master´s metropole is a reality in many African countries. For instance, in Senegal holding a degree from a French University gives one more respect than a same degree gained internally or from other parts of the globe. The same happen in the Gambia where somebody with a British educational background has more respect than his colleague who obtained the same degree in other places.
Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara being a western educational product has well understood that there was a difference between the English-Speaking view of Liberal Democracy and the continental European type of Democracy particularly the one which derived from the French revolution of 1789. Considering what was Kairaba´s behaviour in politics, one can assume that, he has been politically formatted by the reading of Winston Churchill, “the saver of western civilization”, Edmund Burke, and James Madison. In his book, The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty, Professor Joao Carlos Espada, taught us that: “Winston Churchill perceived liberty and democracy mainly as a protection of people´s spontaneous and existing ways of life. These ways of life exist as homes of real people, who have inherited them from their ancestors and will pass them onto their descendants. In this spontaneous dialogue between generations, these ways of life will gradually be adapted and made more convenient to new circumstances. But in no way can they or should they be redesigned by the arbitrary will, or an abstract scheme of perfection, of a single power.” But then what is the difference?
The difference between the English-speaking view of liberal democracy and the continental European view
Gambia is a former British colony and our political system is an emanation of the Anglo-saxonic political culture, the youth has to be thought that there have been two different views of liberal democracy. The continental European views which derived its sources from the French revolution of 1789 and The English -Speaking tradition whose sources could be traced to the magna Carta of 1215 and the Glorious revolution of 1688. “This process of the English political culture had actually been anticipated, as rightly pointed out by Professor Espada, by Edmund Burke in Britain. He had been a leading Whig, himself a committed defender of the legacy of the 1688 Revolution and of the American colonists, as well as of the Irish Catholics and of the rule of law in British India”.
What is the English spirit has been well described by the British historian A.L. Rowse who argued that the distinguished feature of this English spirit is the absence of angst or ennui: “At the core of the English spirit is happiness, a deep source of inner contentment with life, which explains the Englishman´s profoundest wish, to be left alone, and his willingness to leave others to their own devices so long as they do not trouble his repose.”
Many of Gambian politicians do admire the French system type of democracy, particularly of their Senegalese neighbour, I do not know if this is due to a complex of inferiority or by ignorance of the difference between the two views of liberal democracy. We should realize that Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara has understood this difference and remained attached to the English- speaking political culture until his death. In fact, the disciples of the French view of liberal democracy were never able to influence or change his way of doing politics. Just an example, can´t we realize that in all the surrounding countries, Gambia parliament is the only legislation body which has nominated MPs. Did anybody question where this comes from and what is the reason and wisdom behind it?
Here lies the difference between the two views:
The specificity of the political tradition of English-speaking peoples is that, “Locke´s principles served to endorse a largely conservatives revolution in Britain, because those principles were combined with, and understood within, a tradition of limited and accountable government. This tradition existed long before Locke, at least since the Magna Carta of 1215. This concept of limited and accountable government has had tremendous consequences it has allowed Britain to assimilate so many revolution without recourse to Revolution” as rightly written by Elie Halevy who wrote that “The true miracle of modern England is not that she has been spared revolution, but that she has assimilated so many revolutions – industrial, economic, social, political, cultural – without recourse to Revolution.”
“Popular government is not perceived among the English- speaking peoples, as a replacement for an absolutist and reactionary government of one or of few by the absolutist and progressive government of the many.” “whereas in Britain and America liberal democracy has emerged as a protection of existing ways of life, in continental Europe democracy has been associated – both by its critics and by most of its promoters – with a political project of changing existing ways of life.”
“first, in Britain and in America, a political commitment to democracy does not entail a uniformity of views on matters of philosophy, morality or public policy. In Europe, in the contrary, an elitist monopoly and uniformity tend to be fostered both by a misleading understanding of democracy and by electoral systems based on party lists.” For the purpose of the present essay these quotations are enough for a grasp about the differences of view for those who would like to deepen their understanding about this topics I invite them to read the Anglophiles authors like Karl Popper, Friedrich A. Hayek Isaiah Berlin, Alexis de Tocqueville and why not a profound study of Winston Churchill and Edmund Burke, etc.
The Gambia needs a Churchill or a second Dawda Kairaba Jawara
Winston Churchill was the only leading politician, to paraphrase the words of my able professor Espada, who understood and perceived, not only in Britain but in the whole Europe, the threat of Hitler almost a decade before he invaded Poland and started the second World War. Edmund Burke was the only Whig politician who had opposed the French revolution for perceiving earlier the signs of tyranny. Gambia needs a sound politician who will understand the threat of tribe line politics to the existence and future of our beloved country. We cannot accept short sighted politicians, who speak with emotion basing their politics on tribal line or on partisan basis. Gambia is an English-speaking country with its specific traditional political culture, we have nothing to admire any other political system. Let us go back to our Anglo saxonic political culture, a culture cherished and left as a legacy by Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. The parenthesis opened by the July 22nd Revolution of 1994 and closed on December 1st, 2016 can in no way destroy a political culture instilled for centuries in the minds of Gambians.
When His Excellency President Adama Barrow was claiming a new Gambia ushered after the elections of 2016, I disagreed, maybe it would have been better to call it a Gambia reconnected with its original political culture. Because democracy in the Gambia is Sir Dawda´s legacy or better a “obra maga” of the founding father of the Gambia´s independence.
Is President Barrow ready to continue Kairaba Jawara´s legacy?
Having lived in England and enjoyed the freedom, President Adama Barrow, one may be tempted to say that he would have been in better position to continue Kairaba Jawara´s legacy, though the time he accessed to the reigns of power is very demanding. Jawara gained power at a time of a serious scarcity of intellectuals in the Gambia. Today there are many factors that make the presidency job a serious business. The emergence of social media coupled with the existence of so many university graduates created an environment not easy to manage. Among the many qualities attributed to President Jawara were tolerance, calmness, a good listening etc, these leadership qualities, my dear President Barrow strives to acquire those qualities. Your recent sortie, encore une fois, was tantamount to damaging the image of the Gambian democracy you have been claiming to promote. Am referring to your meeting with one of the many local delegations visiting State House, during which you stated that, you are the President of all Gambians, be it a UDP militant, an APRC one or any other party members, fine nobody has doubt on this fact, but where, le bas blaisse is that part of the statement where, you questioned why people do referrer to the police if they have matters or issues with you? Because the police are under you.”
In a liberal democracy the separation of power is a fundamental principle and such statement coming from the president of the Republic bring about serious concern about the freedom of the judiciary branch of power. H.E Adama Barrow must be seen as the most unfortunate President of the Gambia, came to power through a coalition of contre nature, a coalition a la salade Russe, where you find all type of political families. From communists, liberal democrats to undefined political ideology parties, it could be detected, by any political scientist that the coalition would have not last long. Your initial steps were done in the right path, by installing a think tank, you shaped a path, if it was productive would have save you from many mistakes. They would have prepared you by giving you scientific advises based on knowledgeable research, unfortunately the bunch of gossipers took the advantage of being close to you and mislead you. Now you find yourself in the ancient regime firing and hiring.
“In a chapter on political philosophy, which he contributed to The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Philosophy, Lord Quinton said that “the effect of the importation of Locke`s doctrines into France was much like that of alcohol on an empty stomach. In Britain, Anthony Quinton added, Locke´s principles served to endorse a largely conservative revolution against absolutist innovation, whereas in France the importation of Locke`s ideas led to the radicalism of the French revolution.”
I would paraphrase lord Quinto and say that the effect of the importation of democratic ideas and values in The Gambia is much like that of alcohol on an empty stomach.
Abdou Jarju is former Ambassador of The Gambia to Guinea-Bissau, Republic of Guiné and Cabo Verde, Master’s in political science, International Relations: Security and Defence, post graduate in diplomacy of small states, language and diplomacy, diplomacy of the 21srt Century, Diplomacy protocols and etiquettes