By Olimatou Coker
Ansumana Cessay, senior programme officer at the National Council for Civic Education, has said there is a rising tide of ethnic and religious-based hate rhetoric on the airwaves and social media.
Cessay made these remarks recently during a community dialogue initiative among women, youth and communities in regions.
He added that these developments pose the risk of creating social and political instability that can derail the progress of this country and cause anarchy. “While we are here advocating and promoting the inclusion of women and young people in peacebuilding, decision making and their participation in the governance process, we would also like to remind women and young people to be law-abiding and desist from the abuse of social media and not allow to be used as political tools to do acts that are inimical to peace”.
He explained that The Gambia is set to hold presidential election in less than 100 days, the first one since the ousting of an authoritarian regime. “This will be a pivotal moment to consolidate and cement the democratic route of the Gambia. But it is also coming at a time when the country is deeply polarized,” he warned.
Ceesay also pointed out that over the years there has been major progress in term of having young people and women in critical positions. “But the progress is uneven. Women and young people are still underrepresented in politics, in our national assembly and in our traditional rule, while more youth and women are putting themselves forward for elections and more are mounting key positions in different sectors. Yet their numbers are still far behind. There is still a prevailing traditional perception as to the role of women and young people in the social, economic and political spheres.
“Sadly, some of these barriers still exist despite the widely accepted belief that development, peace and prosperity in societies cannot be achieved if half of the Gambia’s population, which are women and young people, continue to be largely side-lined in decision –making. The stigma against women especially in politics is still alive and well. They continue to face structural, socioeconomic, institutional and cultural barriers. Tackling those barriers takes effort on the part of every element of society whether it is government, civil society, the private sector, youth, women and even more importantly traditional rulers”, he said.
Ceesay noted that the NCCE will continue facilitating trainings and dialogues of this nature to build harmony and promote participation in the society. “We will also continue with our determination to build and consolidate a mature political culture in which all citizens regardless of gender and age are more aware of, and fully exercise their rights and responsibilities, as well as participate effectively in nurturing and broadening our nascent democracy,” he said.