By Mustapha Jallow
In the fourth phase of the National Council for Civic Education’s (NCCE) community sensitization on democratic participation currently going on in the Lower River Region (LRR), it is much anticipated by the NCCE that the 13-day sensitisation outreach campaign will cultivate an environment of democratic continuity, that would enable citizens to participate fully in the governance and development process of the country.
Even though elections (council and municipal) are months away, the NCCE officials are currently engaged with communities in meaningful ways, to ensure that they are sensitised on their civic duties and rights and given the education necessary to prepare them as responsible and enlightened citizens in their country.
Their activities have enabled villagers to become familiar with the issues at stake, regarding democracy and civic responsibility. Through the exercise, NCCE’s senior officials say citizens’ political and civic consciousness would be raised, to enable them assume their responsibilities.
Speaking in Jarra Sukuta in the LR Region on Tuesday 24thOctober 2017, a senior official of the NCCE Mr. Ansumana Yabou, said most of the citizens do not understand the meaning of democracy even though it has been in existence for centuries; that democracy is a way of governance.
‘‘Democracy works through collective decisions, which means respecting and protecting people’s rights. The purpose of democracy is to share power to ensure good governance,’’ he said.
Mr. Yabou continued: ‘‘The Gambia has a third president but it is not a third republic yet since the constitution has not changed. The main reason for Gambia’s progress failure is due to the lack of citizen’s participation in its development process.’’
He said every-citizen should be engaged in national development ‘‘because no one will come from outside to develop our country for us.’’ That as good citizens, we should report any suspected activity that can cause panic in our country, he added. He further stated that Government, National Assembly Members and Councils, should meet the needs and aspirations of the people who voted them into office.
‘‘We elect people for reasons and needs. So they should also endeavour to meet those needs that they should take care for us. You people have the right to hold government accountable’’ he said.
Mr. Yabou concluded by calling on people especially villagers, to see each other as equal; that everyone has a right to political association, assembly, beliefs and opinion. He also continued by calling on people to maintain peace and stability in the country.
The Alkalo of the community Alh. Sambou Saidykhan, said if citizens know the importance of democracy and apply it to the letter, they will all live in peace and harmony.
On his part, Alagie Sulu Saidykhan, the Chairman of the Village Development Committee (VDC), thanked the NCCE for educating them.
‘‘We are now becoming aware that democracy does not mean doing whatever you want but what will bring development, peace and stability to our beloved country,’’ he said.
On the second day of the tour, a similar message was delivered at Njaba-Kunda by Mr. Junkung Saidy, also a senior official of the NCCE. He told villagers that it is every citizen’s responsibility to maintain the good name and image of the country and as well as protect the constitution.
‘‘We should all contribute to national development,’’ he urged.
The Ag. Senior Programme Officer Mr. Yusupha Bojang, explained that the activity is part of the institution’s ongoing awareness campaign on Democratic Governance and Civic Rights and Duties of citizens, in a Democracy.
‘‘The campaign started in the West Coast Region, covering 46 selected communities in both Kombos and Foni. We will be engaging 26 selected communities in LRR (Jarra and Kiang),’’ he said.
In conclusion, SPO Bojang said the sensitization helps to address some of the illusions about democracy and the notion of the new Gambia, which is causing certain irresponsible behaviours affecting the peaceful coexistence of the country, if not addressed.