EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy and “Right to Know” on Saturday hosted a stakeholder forum where they discussed democratic processes and the country’s state of readiness for a referendum.
The meeting brought together civil society, political parties, National Assembly Members and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) who deliberated and exchange views on the post Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) process and on issues specific to the relevant provision of a new constitution.
The gathering availed participants the opportunity to engage the IEC and other institutions tasked with delivering the referendum and the processes leading to the CRC submission of the draft constitution.
Speaking on behalf of the organizers, Jegan Grey Johnson criticized the current government for misplacing constitutional amendment priorities, saying that has made things no different from the Jammeh regime.
He encouraged the civil society to put pressure on the IEC to come up with an alternative proposal for the National Assembly to look at. “Unfortunately, in 2017 few months after the Barrow coalition came into power, we saw that there was some selective amendments to this despicable laws that were passed. We were hoping that it would have been a set of holistic amendments aimed at showing good will but it was clear that this was totally ungenerous.”
Secretary General of the Peoples’ Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) Halifa Sallah emphasized on the need to improve civic education in order to get rid of unhealthy ideologies. He urged the country’s young generation to take charge of their education and take a lead in deciding the election of responsible leaders. “This generation has not had the opportunity to be able to have the civic education it needs.”
Mr Sallah said the starting point of good citizenship is being educated at the early stage of childhood, saying that is the reason why many peoples’ way of thinking is centered on ethnicity and religion. “Your generation should take charge of being educated and actively take part in the decisions of electing responsible leaders.”
Dr Ismaila Ceesay, political science lecturer at the University of The Gambia and host of the event, noted that with the right attitude and will, the referendum will enable Gambia to have a new constitution. He pointed out that the referendum will serve as a test to determine if the new found democracy Gambians are talking about is indeed not. “I think if we start now with the right attitude we can achieve our aim of having a new constitution. And I believe since 2016, the referendum will be our first test to know if we are really in a democracy.”
The referendum is expected to take place in six months. The fear as it is now is whether Gambian people have received massive civic education to enable them make the right decision.