Alieu Momarr Njai was speaking on Tuesday at the start of a National Youth Dialogue on peaceful campaigning and election in The Gambia. Organized by the NYC, MoYS, the two-day forum is funded by ECOWAS and held on the theme ‘youths as agents of peace and non violent election’
“There must be free speech so that all citizens, political parties and candidates can speak without fear or intimidation.The media must be free to tell people what was said without pressure to twist the truth.That is the job of professional journalist to fully inform citizens of the issue and their choices so that they can decide for themselves for whom to vote.”
Elections, he went on, must be fair and there must be rules to ensure every citizen has a secret vote, adding that all candidates must also have equal rights and opportunities to campaign without interference.
“The rules must be enforced fairly and everyone must respect the result of the vote. For the proper maintenance of peace and tolerance in the electoral process, youths are not to be used as political thugs. Instead they have to be the voice of the voiceless and the instruments of peace and they need to see The Gambia first before any other thing.”
For his part, Bakary Y. Badjie,minister for Youth and Sports described the national youth dialogue as important especially for the reconsolidation of peace and good governance in The Gambia as ‘we head to the 2021 elections.
The objective, he added, is to facilitate and open dialogue with regards to young people’s perception of the electoral processesand document aspiration for the upcoming presidential elections and the physical engagement among them.
“The dialogue among youth will contribute in the country’s social economic and national development for peace for electoral violence among their localities and also to encourage young people for development.”
Claude Kondor, the ECOWAS political adviser said ECOWAS has been in The Gambia since 2017 to support various activities in a bid to promote national democracy and ensure good governance.
“As we are preparing for next election, dialogue is very important as it is part of democracy and youth are the future leaders. It is very important for them to discuss the issues affecting them to get the desired impact.”
The ECOWAS political adviser urged the youth not to hide the challenges they face in The Gambia, saying ‘we need to look at the opportunities to be able to come up with something that will advise the elders on the way forward.’