Alagi Yorro Jallow

(JollofNews)- George Orwell once warned that the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history. Without control over our past, we surrender our political power. The absence of an inclusive national collective, silence and cowardice have made 22 years of dictatorship possible.

Silence means agreement or complicity, or an illicit approval of the crime or wrongdoing. So, it seems to be a universally accepted principle. Those who uphold the values of life and liberty cannot remain silent and still be true to their profession, faith and values. This has many examples in our country, if we look at the silence of both our political, youth, community, intellectual and our religious leaders. They are elected or appointed as leaders to speak out against wrongdoings or to speak for good things being done and to promote them.

The first glaring example in the country is the atrocities inflicted on politicians, religious leaders and journalists. When they happen, the military, the police and our intellectually minded in civil society keep silent with complicity, thus enabling the dictator. But opposition politicians and some journalists at least had the guts to denounce the dictator. However, in the case of the kidnap and torture of the Gambian people, now today’s so-called activists do not have the guts or moral courage to speak out.

What we want to drive home is that both civil society activists and other spiritual leaders are notorious for their silence in the face of the criminal happenings against which they should act. The failure to take a stand degrades and diminishes the national moral culture that is at the heart of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust. The moral values and principles and dignity of a nation, as found in its constitution, must be defended or the soul of the nation will be degraded and blemished.

Our silence to fight dictatorship causes the trampling underfoot, or the merciless death of moral values that promotes Yahya Jammeh’s two decades of rule.

In a world where violence and human rights violations are marked by a reluctance to take a stand against evil, not to report child abuse or oppose torture and murder is to be complicit in heinous crimes.

The silence born out of the unwillingness to challenge the abusers and even the abusive authorities must be seriously examined by individuals and communities. This system is another legacy of the dictatorship and our complicity of silence.

The victims’ silence in the aftermath of these crimes is a result of trauma and fear. Victims of sexual abuse are, in most cases, unable to cry out and seek justice. They are just children.

In cases where the perpetrator is a family member, there can be a pressure not to shame a relative; sometimes the child is wrongly blamed and has overwhelming feelings of guilt. They carry the secret buried in their hearts all their lives.

Victims of torture, police brutality, violence and human trafficking are frequently silent because they or their families may be threatened by the authorities or powerful criminals. Silence in the face of crimes against the innocent – when one should act for justice and speak out – can be a criminal offence. It is also morally wrong. This is especially true of duty bearers, people in authority mandated to speak out and protect the community. The failure to report a crime is seen by some as complicity or being an indirect accomplice to the crime.

The reality of mass killings is a shocking lesson in the failure to protect vulnerable people. In the Gambia, where innocent and poor people are murdered, people with moral values and principles must protest at the inhumanity.

They must never applaud or support a single death. The victims are only suspects; they are named, marked and killed without evidence or due process. We did little to act to stop such arbitrary killing and demand justice. If the rule of law does not apply to all, it applies to none.

Where such systematic killing occurs, no people must remain silent and do little or nothing. The moral imperative is to open dialogue with the forces behind such atrocities. The failure to take a stand degrades and diminishes the national moral culture that is at the heart of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust. The moral values and principles as well as the dignity of a nation, as found in its constitution, must be defended or the soul of the nation will be degraded and blemished.

When moral values are confined to the classroom and do not come to the forefront of a non-violent march, a peaceful protest or a statement denouncing wrong and upholding life and human dignity, they are dead. Society will be living in a graveyard surrounded by the corpses of victims. We ought to be haunted by our guilt, inaction and silence.

This silence in the face of 22 years of brutal dictatorship is the worst example we can give the next generation. A culture of silence and acquiescence to the horrors that pervaded society for 22 years. Many saw the July 22 Revolution as the solution to so-called anarchy but then, to their dismay, they realized the great harm and evil that it brought upon the nation.

Those brave enough to speak out and oppose oppression and evil were exiled or eliminated and killed. Others did unite and worked underground to expose the evil and bring down the dictator. Today, we need the same voices and people of courage and bravery who can overcome fear and take a stand for what is just and right.