By Omar Bah
The National Council for Civic Education, NCCE, has validated a bill seeking to give the institution total independence from the Office of the President.
The bill, entitled National Commission for Civic Education Bill, 2020, seeks to transform the NCCE from a council to a commission as well as give its members immunity against prosecution in pursuance of their duty.
The bill, if passed, will outline the commission’s direct and detailed mandate, clear the ambiguity of its independence, ensure the availability of funds with predictability and certainty and as well facilitate the setting up of regional offices across all the regions of the country.
The objective of the bill, according to the NCCE chairman, Sering Faye, is to bring civic education to the doorsteps of people in rural Gambia.
“In this post-dictatorship era, there is a general misconception across many societies about the meaning of democracy among the citizens, thus resulting in lots of abuses, mistrust, intolerance, and division along political and tribal lines. This has raised the political temperature and, in some cases, resulted in isolated cases of tension and fracas in different parts of the country,” Faye said.
This, he added, has made the mandate of the NCCE to enlighten and empower citizens on their civic rights and duties as enshrined in the constitution even more important.
However, Faye said the NCCE has been faced with massive challenges such as limited or inadequate funding, and an Act of Parliament that is obsolete and in dire need of reform.
“While we appreciate the Gambia Government for the continuous support, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to them to prioritize funding and arming the NCCE to be able to effectively and efficiently execute its constitutional mandate,” he said.
The secretary general and head of civil service, Noah Touray said the bill will better position the NCCE to give citizens the requisite civic knowledge and skills that will help them to effectively respond and participate in all issues of national development.
“Most especially at a time when we have come to take democracy for granted and in an age when social media can instantly spread rumour and false information on a magnificent scale, the public’s need for civic education is ever more vital,” he said.
SG Touray said as the country is less than 100 days to the presidential election, “it is a crucial moment for us as a country to renew our commitment to the advancement of democracy and rule of law and sustain the gains we achieved over the past five years”.
“The participation of all citizens in this process is essential to sustaining our democratic form of government. And one way of enhancing the capacity of the public to effectively participate in governance, is through civic education. Citizens need to be provided with the right information that will enable them to effectively participate in public affairs and national development,” he said.
The Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow said: “The Bill will transform the NCCE from a Council to a Commission, giving it more powers and independence to be able to come up with comprehensive civic education programs and activities that will provide information as a means of enabling and enhancing citizens’ participation in matters of governance; enhance a culture of patriotism and constitutionalism that can response to the social and governance challenges that upset our burgeoning democracy. In an era of new political dispensation, civic education is critical for the advancement of the Gambia.
“There is a great necessity to recognise that the democratisation of the Gambia provides a unique opportunity to advance reconciliation, political dialogue, and peace consolidation efforts in the country. This entails primarily using civic education and outreach efforts to reach as many Gambians as possible,” Minister Jallow added.