At the heart of democracy is the right to dissent and the ability to express that dissension. One of the differences between a dictatorship and a democracy is citizens’ ability to manifest their agreement or disagreement over issues in the country.
A key aspect of democracy is also citizens’ participation in the governance of the nation. One of the ways in which citizens can participate in governance is to speak out, write, protest to inform the governors of their grievances. Thus, government would become aware of what perhaps they had been hitherto fore unaware.
In a true democracy, whatever the government does is – should be – in the name of, and for the benefit of, the people. If therefore something is being done in the name of, and for the benefit of a group, it is only prudent that that group is aware, is involved, takes part and participates in it. That is where the engagement of the populace comes in.
Protests and demonstrations are a necessary part of a democracy. These, when organized peacefully and properly, raise awareness about issues of national import not only for the government but for the nation as a whole. The Constitution guarantees every citizen certain rights and among those rights is the right to associate freely and belong to an association.
Everyone has – should have – the right to express his/her opinion on any matter that has to do with national development. Thus, that expression may take the form of speech, writing, demonstrating, civil disobedience and other forms of protest. Equally, anyone can and may counter that through one of the various forms. This will only serve to enrich the national discourse and the country will come out stronger and better.
The fact that more and more young people have started taking particular interest in the governance of the country sends a very positive signal for our future. Together, we can build a Gambia we will all be proud of.