Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: In one of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays, Hamlet, Act III, Scene III, King Claudius lamented, “My words fly up, but my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never go to heaven!” Mr. Halifa Sallah, a member of the National Assembly for Serekunda Central constituency and who doubled as the Secretary-General of the People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) and the standard-bearer of PDOIS on the December 4 presidential election, contributed immensely to the democratic consolidation and sustainable foundations of the Gambia’s multiparty politics mainly during the first second, and third republic respectively in deepening the challenges of the sovereign democratic republic of the Gambia. Halifa Sallah’s vision and determination will be a lasting impression on every facet of our national endeavor to transform decades of kakistocracy and kleptocratic rule into an emerging democracy and increasing political consciousness among young people.
Among the men who shaped history, it is those that exhibit a sense of decency and struggle for the betterment of the majority that time will inevitably judge as heroes. Halifa stood his ground on all that he believed in for much of Sering Dara’s adult life. He stood tall and confident against decayed institutions because he was one of the few Gambians who actually “came to equity with clean hands.” Oh, and how solid the ground Halifa stood on was! His ground was his ethics, and his knowledge was his power.
Furthermore, he used that power to do good, much good, shun evil, and take individual responsibility for his actions. Up till today, he never abandoned any of the qualities that made him so great or the elements that were to become the basis of his life and his political legacy. In many respects, Halifa and his colleagues in PDOIS belonged to an exceptional, almost extinct few, such as Edward Francis Small and other pioneers of the birth of the Gambia, who had the creed and represented the remnant of an old species of true nationalists that stood up for the marginalized and fought for the heart and soul of the Gambia.
Sering Dara Halifa Sallah; the man who has known defeat, suffering, struggle, and loss, an American- Swiss psychiatrist and author of ‘On Death and Dying’ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross noted in her book, ‘The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known to suffer, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.These persons according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross always have an appreciation, empathy,sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and deep loving concern.’ Beautiful people do not just happen. No one could have probably defined Halifa Sallah better than Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. However, it took the Gambian voters to appreciate the stature and worth of PDOIS’s Halifa Sallah— an astute organic public intellectual, outstanding sociologist, Pan Africanists, and indefatigable human rights defender. Even then, we never fully benefited from the great potential of our very own.
Due to his initiative, the new Gambia now has a solid and solid base of civil and political rights. It is a significant moral giant of Africa. Halifa is inspired by a durable foundation and represents a renewed initiative towards consolidating the gains of national reconstruction at this crucial stage of our emergent democracy and national development.
Fatoumatta: From the corner of my memory’s eye, I catch this movie. A community decides to collectively hate on this Jewish guy who always wears a hat. The kids are fed a belief that the guy has horns under his hat…. what is the name of that movie… so a generation of youngsters is growing up hating a Jew (and therefore all other Jews they will ever know) because they believe he has horns growing out of his skull as a sign of his inherently evil nature. He is the boogieman they dare not come near… darn it, what is the name of that movie… There is a funny scene where two of the kids who know the truth decide to lure other kids to the Jewish guy’s home so they can see his horns when he takes off his hat. The knowing kids laugh themselves silly when the other gullible kids take off in terror upon seeing the man with the horns approaching… what the devil’s horn is the name of– forget it.
For now, “the man with the horn” is a real-life movie playing out in Gambian politics, especially in diaspora among a group that believes the man from the shores of Sere-Kunda Central is indeed Mephistophelian in nature. He is the Gambia guy with the hat that hides something diabolical. Hence, he is greatly feared by the godly and spiritually favored group that has decided only one man anointed to lead the country.
I do not come to judge your faith or to question the veracity of such bizarre claims – heck, I do not know if the man is hiding a chicken claw that can run all by itself under his hat – but as a human being who refuses to stay silent in the face of crimes against humanity, I will point to the chilling markings of a dangerous collective mindset clothed in holiness and humility.
Somewhere in this political madness that has affected diaspora and Gambian politics, there is a light, and I know that light well because I have bathed often in its unpretentious generosity. At a time like this, we must dare invade each other’s exclusive spaces even when we are not welcome, talk to each other long enough, heart to heart, across the divide, however difficult the conversations, and only then will we begin to find each other’s shared humanity.
The history of this country attests that we have either killed or frustrated our very best. Any serious political analyst of the Gambia’s politics can testify that no one can hold a candle to him? Unfortunately, Gambians tend to be distracted by the dancing squirrel and then losing sight of the fatter antelope. Gambians must get serious with the future of their children and stop splitting hairs over nothing. Halifa Sallah and PDOIS could make a better country than you all know who! Just like a ‘beautiful person,’ Halifa has known defeat, known to suffer, known struggle, known loss, and has found his way out of the depths.
Fatoumatta: Halifa Sallah stood as a brilliant, bright shining light in a land literally and morally steeped in darkness like very few in this country. However, he was the very essence of duty, compassion, justice, and selfless humanity. He represented hope to a people sinking deep in despondency. He became the role model of a good leader and a good Gambian.
Of all the ironies about the life of Halifa, maybe the greatest was the fact that those who disagreed with him ideologically and in principal were the first to position themselves as chief admirers.
Sering Dara Halifa will never repent like King Claudius, who killed for him to ascend to power. He tried to kneel in prayer but could not feel any sense of comfort, mercy. Claudius soon realized that because he had no intention of confessing the crime or changing his earthly status, his words were empty and meaningless. Consequently, the weight of his sin kept him bound to earth, with no hope of touching heaven.
Fatoumatta: Halifa Sallah belonged to the most extensive human family, his immediate biological family, the Gambian students, the Gambian workers, the courageous voices of the genuine opposition in the political spectrum, and the international human rights community that recognized him for his unalloyed pursuits of the rights of every human being.