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‘The only way to test democracy is to test instruments of democracy’

Mar 5, 2020, 12:31 PM | Article By: Fatou B. Cham

The chairperson of the Association of NGOs in The Gambia (TANGO) has underscored that the only way to know whether a democracy is working in a country is when the instruments of democracy are being tested.

John Charles Njie was speaking at a two-day capacity building workshop on the theme; combating impunity for enforced disappearance and extra judicial killings for Civil Society organisations in The Gambia.

Organized by IHRDA in partnership with Trial International, the event seeks to train participants on how to use level instruments to fight against enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, advocate for justice and come up with remedies.

“What is seen in most cases is that people agitate and protest then that’s it, but until we get to a point of testing our systems and able to test our judiciary and National Assembly to see how independent they are, we will have a long way to go,” he expressed.

Njie recalled that when he took office as the chairman of TANGO, one of the cries in his heart has been that as a nation ‘be able’ to begin to test their systems.

He thus congratulated IHRDA for taking legal action against The Gambian government when it comes to the issue of the public order act, adding that very soon it will be heard that The Gambia has been found wanting and their authorities will do what they are supposed to do.

When it comes to holding government accountable, Njie made reference to the case of HonourableYaKumbaJaiteh, adding that ‘if we continue to agitate and call on government names, we will never know how effective and independent our judiciary is’.

Edmund Foley, director of programmes at IHRDA, outlined that the overall objective of the forum is to prevent enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings as well as increase accountability of perpetrators in countries,thus improving the search for victims.

“It is also meant to strengthen the knowledge base of governmental and non-governmental actors in the search for victims of enforced disappearance. First we hope to look for cases to mitigate and as well build their capacity,” he added

Mr. Foley said thatthe forum is also aimed at increasing the number of cases that they can file and use judicial mechanisms to seek remedies for victims and their families.

“We hope to mitigate these before the national courts and of course the competent human rights mechanism. IHRDA also seeks to encourage and fight for fundamental human rights of all persons and we see the Civil Society Organisations as key partners and with the kind support from the European Union and Trial International,we were able to conduct this training for institutions and organisations” he stated,

Else Boonstra, political officer, European Union delegation to The Gambia, highlighted the efforts The Gambia is making to come to terms with its recent past, reminding that as representatives in Civil Society Organisations they have a major role to play in that process to see it to that those efforts reach their full potentials and to seek remedies and justice for those that have suffered injustices in the past.

“This workshop will therefore, provide an opportunity for experts to give tangible advice that will contribute to their everyday work and to strengthen their capacity to hold accountable those that may be responsible for what has happened in The Gambia,” she disclosed.

The workshop, she went on, will create a platform for experts to explain regional and international instruments on enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings and document cases by setting up of practical exercises to work on interview techniques.

More importantly, she added, it will create a platform to share knowledge on how to use advocacy in the search for justice.