By Olimatou Coker
Amprofi Agyemang, programme officer, Article 19, The Gambia office urged area councils and municipalities in the country to open their communication lines to the public.
“The communication line and mechanism of the councils need to be strengthened and deepened and continually engaged with the local people living within the councils to actually know on daily basis what they want,” he said during the one-day consultative forum for 17 Civil Society Organisations (CBOs) in Banjul, Kanifing and Brikama.
The forum organised by Article 19, The Gambia office, is meant to discuss recommendations for newly elected municipal officials. It is also part of efforts aimed at fostering governance, accountability, access to information and citizen engagement.
“This is the only way they will be able to be very successful. If you do not have a good communication and reactive strategy you will find that you may be doing good things but that will not be channelled down in term of information flood to the different people within the councils,” he noted.
He said the CBOs will come up with recommendations for the newly elected council officials, in terms of good governance, accountability and access to information as well as the things that they should know in order for them to engage in important issues, especially on accountability within the structures of the local government system.
“This is a start of a programme that we hope to have in the next couple of weeks to bring these officials together and discuss the recommendations from today’s forum and another to be held in the coming weeks. We will make presentations and get the feedback from them,” he said.
On the achievement of the newly elected chairpersons and mayors, he said it is too early to tell, because they have not even gotten to 100 days in office yet, but noted that there have been a lot of good movements especially in KMC and BCC.
“There are a lot of good initiatives, posturing around and we expect a lot of complete programmes that they will communicate with the citizenry, council members and people living in those councils. It is a bit too early to make a judgement on what they have been able to achieve. We are still going to give them time, but it is not too late to start the engagement process now,” he stated.
Article 19 engagements
“Last year in December, we had a forum where we consulted stakeholders on access to information law in the country and that process is still ongoing,” he said.
He said they had a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Justice to look at reforming some media related laws in the country.
He said: “As part of that earlier on in February 2018, the former minister, Demba Jawo, put in place a Media Law Review Committee, which Article 19 provided technical assistance to in order to bring together all stakeholders to deliberate on the current laws we have in The Gambia which are not media-friendly so that they will be revised or new ones put in place to make the media space more friendly for journalists and citizens.
“We are currently in the process of coming with some legislations and we hope that the process will be facilitated at pace so that these laws become reality. We have other projects with EU which mainly focus on capacity building for the Victims’ Centre and Gambia Federation for the Disabled and provide some technical assistance for the setting up of the Human Rights Commission.”
For the CSOs in the country they should try to do a lot more talking among themselves and a lot more coordination.
According to him, there has been a lot of reactive posturing from CSOs, and they need to set their agenda, what they need from the government, local authorities and others.
“They need to tell the government on a weekly basis with the media as to what they want government to do. Is shouldn’t be the case that there is an issue CSOs then reacted back, the posturing have to be a little more proactive,” he advised.