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Gambia’s reforms agenda is losing track, says Beakanyang director

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The executive director of Beakanyang has lamented that the country’s reform agenda is losing track thanks to lack of political will.

Mr. Nfamara Jawneh was speaking recently as guest speaker at Tango during a national youth conference on youth participation in democratic reforms.

The annual conference was organized by the Bakau-based Side by Side Organization and their US partners.

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According to the award-winning human rights activist, young people were frustrated by the autocratic regime and rallied behind the Coalition partners to effect change.

“In January, 2017, as the country awaited the departure of former president Yahya Jammeh to what has now become his second home (Equatorial Guinea), scores of young people took to the streets of Banjul, Serrekunda and across the country celebrating not only the end of dictatorship but hopes for a better Gambia.

In fact, the Coalition partners campaigned on the promises of democratic reforms including security sector reforms, judicial reforms, electoral and civil service reforms,” he said.

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According to him, The Gambia’s ongoing reforms at the beginning have no doubt received a strong political will, national ownership, regional and international support.

“However, it seems we are losing track with our reform agenda. We have failed to usher in a new constitution, we have also failed to effect the necessary electoral reforms (bill still lying down at the National Assembly) and the country is still deeply divided on many issues including the rehiring of former Jammeh enablers,” said the rights activist.

“The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was established as per the Constitutional Review Commission Act 2017 and was responsible for drafting a new constitution and prepare a subsequent report. The draft constitution could not pass the second reading at the National Assembly. The Government of The Gambia in 2017 also launched Security Sector Reforms (SSR) to reform the security sector into a more professional security forces that operate in line with the rule of law and respect to the fundamental human rights and international best practice and standards. Policy frameworks have been developed but the process is very slow,” he noted.

Jawneh called on young people to actively monitor and support the implementation of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) recommendations once it’s submitted to the government.

“If we failed to manage our transition well, we will pay a high price which could be very chaotic,” said Jawneh.

According to him, since young people constitute over 60 percent of Gambia’s population they are the greatest asset of our nation.

“We have to leverage on the capacity of our young people to fast track the democratic reforms. The strengthening of our democratic reform process requires the meaningful participation of our young people,” he said.

He urged young people to continue pushing for reforms that the Coalition government promised such as fostering good governance and respect for human rights and employment opportunities.

“As young people we must continue to play an active role in strengthening the democratic reforms.”

Mr. Jawneh stressed that this kind of forums should be frequently organized primarily by young people to come together and deliberate on issues of common interest and challenges among other things such as role of young people in the democratization process of the country.

“The involvement of young people in public decision-making processes offers important opportunities for civic engagement, education and learning about government,” he noted.

He also applauded the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission for the first time in the history of the Gambia.

He reiterated Beakanyang’s continuous resolve to promoting effective youth participation in the governance and decision-making processes both at local and national levels.

“Our youth must be empowered to be able to actively contribute towards building our young and fragile democracy. We need to open doors for genuine dialogue and partnership between young people and government,” he concluded.

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