Women of Substance





When the ballot box fails

Elections are an integral part of every democratic and peace loving society; elections can be considered as a means of changing, replacing or backing a particular government or an individual entrusted with the welfare of people. Elections give ordinary people the opportunity to choose those whom they deem fit to lead them. Though elections have been modernised, the same process still prevails; elections have been an effective way in changing rulers and high ranking government officials in as far back as the 6th century-during the era of Ancient Rome. Even the Arabs used the electoral process in choosing caliphs. However, elections under the leadership under the leadership of a dictator plays a totally different role. Dictators use elections as an avenue to command a total control of power. The rigging of elections has always been a norm in a dictatorial system of government, dictators are hardly removed through elections, and the fact that they have total control of power makes it easier for them to manipulate the whole system and rig it outright!   Removing a dictator through elections is more or less like searching for a unicorn in the Abuko Nature reserve. Dictators have always used fear to rule, when a dictator understands the psyche of his people it’s almost certain for him to rule until his imminent death; when the Gambian president clearly states that he will only help develop places that vote for him to stay in power, the psychological warfare is as obvious in this statement as seeing the sun in the morning. People are forced to focus on the consequences of not for voting for president Jammeh rather on the benefits of attaining total freedom and liberty. Since he has been in power for so long it has become normal to the ordinary Gambian that his votes don’t make any difference, voting for him or not wouldn’t change the fact that he still will come out victorious, they might as well vote for him or lose their entitlements as citizens and tax payers of the Gambia. This is fear at its worse.

The buying of votes and bribing of voters are some of the disgusting things dictators use in winning elections. Taking advantage of the citizens especially the ones living in poverty, the inhabitants are forced to make a decision between their total liberty and survival. Dictators thrive in poor countries, with a poor populace they becomes almost like God’s. The citizens are used and dumped. A hungry man is not really bothered about votes or its importance, he is rather worried about where his next meal is coming from, and how he is going to feed his family- if such a man is offered money for his votes he will gladly sell it including that of his families. The strategy is simple, keep a populace feeding from hand to mouth then you can easily control them.

Gambians are put in a positions where they had to choose between their total freedom, liberty and their daily survival needs –for the past 21 years they have repeated the same mistake and this has come back to haunt them. No one is willing to sacrifice, the atmosphere of fear has been created through the disappearances, and killing etc. people rather starve to death than actually stand on their own feet and make the changes necessary.

Elections are hardly a solution in removing a dictator, elections have failed to bring any changes in our beloved Gambia and quite frankly I doubt it if it ever will. Charles Bukowski states I quote

“The difference between a democracy and dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.”


Masireh Sanyang

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