By Yankuba Jallow and Saikou Suwareh Jabai
The University of The Gambia (UTG) School of Arts and Sciences last Friday, organised a day long symposium on the theme ‘Democracy and National Development’ looking into the ‘Prospects and Challenges’ under the leadership of Dr. Ismaila Ceesay. The symposium was held at the Gambia College Auditorium.
Professor Pierre Gomez, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences in his opening address said the gathering was organised to rebuild the national consciousness of the people and to revisit the past so that they will be good citizens who will respond to national calls and not to wait for things to be done for them. “Governments come and go but The Gambia Stays” Prof. Gomez said. He added that the Gambia has built itself peace and tolerance and it must be jealously guarded. He urged Gambians to work towards maintaining the peace and peaceful co-existence among themselves and be law abiding.
Speaking at the gathering, Madam Fatou Janneh, deliberating on the topic Citizenship, Civic Consciousness and National Development said there can be no development without citizens assuming their civic responsibilities. “The people of The Gambia should realize that civic consciousness is essential to sustain our democracy and also enhance development therefore, it must be fostered and nurtured,” Janneh said.
On who is a citizen, she said Citizenship typically refers to the relationship between the individual and the community, state, or nation which literally means the legal status of a citizen of a country. She added that the concept of citizenship in The Gambia can be looked at from two dimensions: First, when the people of The Gambia were subjects of Britain between 1821 and 1965; Second, when the people of The Gambia attained their independence on the 18th of February 1965 and became a republic on the 24th of April 1970. “When people are dominated or totally controlled they become subjects rather than citizens and when they are liberated, they are known as citizens and they must have entitlements or rights to determine the kind of government they want which requires awareness so as to make informed choices,” Janneh asserted. After explaining who a citizen is, Madam Janneh went on to say a citizen should be able to show allegiance and take ownership of his or her community through participation in order to go beyond being mere resident.
Commenting on the Correlation between Citizenship and Civic Consciousness she said the degree to which a citizen participates in the process of national development is dictated by the level of his or her civic consciousness. “Civic consciousness means citizens recognizing their own rights and duties” she explained. According to her, civic consciousness amongst others enhances individual citizens and groups to pursue their diverse interests based on common good. It also encourages active involvement of people in collective decision making in their own local communities, she added. On the issue of national development, she said in order to enhance national development in The Gambia, they must begin to look inward rather than outward by promoting selfless leadership and self-reliance so as to develop and strengthen both human and material resources for the benefit of all.
On National Development, she said for it to be attained, the government must respect law, in general, and protection of human rights, in particular by encouraging pluralism, promoting respect for the rule of law, supporting democracy and promoting economic viability and promote free press and dissenting views. She stressed the need for government to encourage industrialization, “there is need for efficient education system and such education must be able to build up people in scientific and technical education in order to stimulate growth, to give adequate funding to research and development amongst others, Promote public-private partnership through collaboration and consultation, Institutions should be autonomous and appointments should be based on qualification and merit”. She also stressed that the tourism and agriculture sectors should be revisited as well as encourage entrepreneurship in schools. In her conclusion, she said without civic consciousness, no meaningful development can be achieved.