Gambia country representative of Article 19, a human rights organisation which
advocates for a world where all people everywhere can freely express themselves
and actively engage in public life without fear of discrimination has called on
the country’s Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to be more active in their
service and not wait to react when incidents happen.
Amprofi Agyemang was speaking during a consultative forum for CSOs in Banjul, Kanifing and Brikama. The consultative forum was organised by Article 19 (West Africa) with support from National Endowment for Democracy (NED) under its “Strengthening Civic Voice and Improving Grassroots Democratic Participation in The Gambia’’ initiative. The forum discussed issues relating to access to information, governance, accountability and citizen engagement for the newly elected Municipal officials with the view to strengthening civic space, voices and engagement at local government level.
He said he did not see any strategic agenda setting mechanism for Gambian CSOs, saying they have become quite reactive to issues and only make statements when incidents occur.
“There is a long period of quietness until something happens and then we react. You should be able to set the agenda by showing government and local government how bad the roads are,” Mr. Agyemang said.
He reminded CSOs that they should make best use of social media and focus on issues that affects the safety of children on health and education among other issues of national development.
According to him, most of the time politicians and people running for offices would present their manifestos to citizens without no clear research as to what they really need or without having ideas that fit what is really on the ground. This, he said, results to politicians abandoning the promises as per their manifestos just few months into office and follow a completely different line.
The Gambia conducted local government elections few months ago, which provided opportunity for newly elected Mayors to implement their manifestos. As a complement to the provisions on representativeness in terms of structure in the Local Government Act, there remains room for additional recommendations on how citizens can further seek information, engage with the local government process to achieve manifesto promises and to promote initiatives that could foster open government and public participation.
However, the forum made some resolutions and recommendations that should be taken by councils after their 100 days in office, especially on good governance, accountability and access to information. It also highlighted some of the campaign promises made by mayors and chairpersons during the campaign and their achievements thus far.