By Kebba Jeffang

Civil Society Coalition on Governance has launched a watchdog group titled ‘‘What is cooking at the National Assembly.’’ The launching of this watchdog group took place on the 11th of December 2017, at a press conference held in the offices of the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Bakau. IRI funded the initiative with the view of creating a mechanism to watch the proceedings in the National Assembly, in the best interest of the Gambian people.

Madam Tabou Sarr, Coordinator of the CSO Coalition on Governance said their objective is to tract the proceedings of the national assembly, share, educate, document and inform the population on processes taking place in the National Assembly. “We know that the National Assembly is the main decision making body of the country and in recent days, they have produced their time table. As a result, we deemed it necessary to be part of the process in disseminating and actively engaging members, in order to contribute effectively and ensure that election promises are upheld. That is transparency, rule of law, accountability to promote good governance and human rights, to make our country a better and prosperous country,” she said. She stated that they will use all means at their disposal to make sure their objective is realized including issuing a position paper on any issue that is raised in parliament and disregarded by the members and the Government.

Yankuba Manjang, a member of the Coalition and representative of the Peace Ambassadors-The Gambia, said CSOs are ready to participate in the affairs of the National Assembly and not just to be following the end result; that they will not leave the parliamentarians alone to do business as usual. “We are trying to see how the civil societies come together and how we can participate in the other bills that they will be discussing at the assembly, most notably, the Human Rights Commission that they will be setting up. Also the Constitutional Review Committee is another interesting area that the CSOs need to look at,” Manjang said.

Mr. Mark of the IRI said the institute has been working on Gambian matters since last October 2016, but established their office in the country recently. “We have been working with civil society organizations by the end of last year and throughout this year. Many projects came up this year and more will come next year too. What IRI really does, we try to encourage democracy where it is deficient. Now what we are trying is to make sure democracy exist here in The Gambia more effectively and also to share the best practices that we have,” he said.

Muhammed S. Bah, another member of the Coalition, emphasized the need to engage parliamentarians by scrutinizing their work in the interest of the people who elected them. “The National Assembly should scrutinize Government but the electorate should also scrutinize their representatives at the National Assembly. They have the right to know what the National Assembly is doing in that building and they would like to know what some of these Laws that are passed on their behalf,” said Bah.

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