By Omar Bah
The National Council for Civic Education has warned that the change of leadership in the Gambia could prove meaningless “if people are not willing to adapt to the change and engage meaningful in the country’s democratisation process.”
The NCCE, as mandated is currently conducting weeks of sensitisation outreach in LRR and CRR to enhance national cohesion and peaceful coexistence in communities, through the promotion of dialogue and respect for the rule of law as a means of settling differences in a democracy.
Speaking in Bodoyel Village, LRR, the NCCE program officer Junkung Saidy Fatajo said the country will only realise the change of leadership if its people are willing to move on, from the past.
“If we want to realise the change business cannot be as usual,” he said.
He said there is no democracy without the engagement of citizens, saying engagement is thus both a right and a responsibility of citizens in establishing, developing and sustaining democracy.
He said citizens’ engagement is not an abstraction; “it takes tangible forms and serves particular purposes to improve people’s lives. Citizen engagement pursues economic, social, cultural and political development, including the provision of opportunity, resources, services, and security.”
“Democracy must deliver and for democracy to deliver, citizens must become informed about issues that can improve their lives. They must be free to join together to express their views and preferences and work to see that government responds to citizen views, thus holding those in government accountable,” he said.
He said the NCCE will continue to engage citizens on their rights because citizens need accurate and timely information, particularly government-held information.
Mr Fatajo added that democracy is a form of government under which the power to alter the laws and structures of government lies, ultimately, with the citizenry.
“Under such a system, legislative decisions are made by the people themselves or by representatives who act through the context of the people, as enforced by elections and the rule of law,” he added.
He said a state is considered to be democratic if its government is accountable to the people and where civil and political rights are legally guaranteed.
“As citizens we should understand that the country belongs to all irrespective of whatever affiliation one may identify yourself with. As such, we should learn to respect each other, respect authority and understand their respective and accept the fact that this country comprises different ethnic, religion, political and other interest groups and no one group is better than the other,” he explained.
He said since every citizen’s view has a right to be expressed and listened to, differences are naturally likely to occur.
“Democracy relies on open discussions, debate and persuasion. Democracy is a system that calls for respect for the rule law at all times, and when one is aggrieved to an extent that you cannot compromise, there are several mechanisms to utilize to peacefully access justice without getting to conflict.”
Fatajo further called on Gambians to put all their political differences aside and focus on national development.
Meanwhile, speaker after speaker during the meeting hailed the NCCE and called on the need for the country to move on and forget the past.