As we embark on yet another period of penance during this Ramadan 2023, it is pertinent to share perspectives on current events in Senegambia and our part of the world.
To begin with, a Ghanaian opposition leader recently claimed that the current government there is “weaponizing state institutions.”
Ahead of the next presidential election in 2024 in Ghana, the opposition also asserts that the country’s electoral commission is being staffed with partisan NPP supporters as EC commissioners – a recurring complaint that the opposition party always makes against the ruling party.
And this has rekindled the long-running debate about the “neutrality and independence” of the country’s EC.
In Gambia, the government rescinded the appointment of a man to the national electoral commission when the opposition complained that the person was a known supporter of the NPP (also the name of the ruling party in Gambia).
In Senegal, which holds the next presidential election in February 2024, the Ministry of the Interior is the state institution that, through bodies it created, oversees elections in Senegal, where the opposition wants a “neutral” person appointed as Interior minister to manage the elections process – as happened in the past.
In Senegal, there is increasing tension as the police state atmosphere descends in the country, and a climate of intolerance creates a general fear of insecurity in persons.
This is evident in the ongoing arrest and detention of hundreds of opposition supporters and members of civil society.
Indeed, people are being prosecuted and imprisoned on charges which highlight a lack of freedom of speech, assembly, and peaceful protest; also seen in the arrest of journalists related to a clampdown on freedom of expression and the press; using the law to harass private media houses, and so on.
These all provide evidence of the current government’s backsliding on the democratic gains achieved in the country since the era of one-party rule after independence in 1960.
These days on Senegalese tv talk shows, one hears much talk of applying the “rule of law” in the West African country.
We recall reading in the past that “the rule of law” is precise that – using the law as a tool by governments everywhere when they resort to persecuting perceived opponents, and to put fear in and controlling the general population.
In Gambia, we were familiar with such use of the law – through the police and courts – during the second Republic.
We all lived through the period when the police, state intelligence service, and courts were used to deal with issues and people and to prosecute and put fear in people.
Under the “rule of law” rubric, there is also the law’s sanctioning of the state’s monopoly of and endorsement of its propensity to use legal violence on the people.
Thus we see the security forces now routinely killing protesters with live bullets in Senegal, where state impunity is the norm.
Again, wherever and whenever a government chooses, that is, enforcing the law – all in the name of maintaining the “rule of law” – it also provides a legal veneer to go after people.
Indeed, according to the Marxist perspective, historically and in past and present societies, the police, intelligence services, and armed forces – so-called “security” forces – were created everywhere as part of the superstructure to promote the interests and protect the ruling classes/elite from the anger of the wretched masses.
That is the reality of life in today’s world under social institutions created by humans (including religion). Again, this was the case in past societies and is now so in all modern state entities.
We must always remember that incontrovertible truth!
Ramadan Mubarak/Ramadan Kareem