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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Peace Hub The Gambia: Creating safe spaces for community dialogue on peace and inclusion

Peace Hub The Gambia (PHTG), a peacebuilding and social cohesion organization last week held a community dialogue on peace in communities in the Upper River Region, Central River Region and the North Bank Region, respectively, with support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund through UNFPA The Gambia.

The community dialogue on peace and Inclusion, which targets to a greater extent women, young people and marginalized groups, is part of the organization’s activities to be implemented under the UNFPA The Gambia Youth Programming for the year 2021. The activity, aimed at creating a safe space for members of each of the communities, provided an opportunity to discuss underlying root causes of conflict, conflict prevention mechanisms, and respect for diversity, tolerance, inclusion, and sustainable peace.

“We had very interesting discussions with the communities; we identified major causes of conflict among them. Some of these are related to resources, some deep-rooted social constructs and even politics. I must admit that it is important we have these conversations, across all generation in communities. We will eventually find solutions to most of our problems, build and sustain peaceful societies”, said Bakary Sonko, PHTG’s National Programme Coordinator.

“The Gambia has been grappling with numerous potential conflict issues, particularly post 2016, and it’s important we find lasting solutions to these. However, we cannot do this without a substantial understanding of the major threats to our peace. Thus, this is why engagements like these become worthwhile. They provide us with the opportunity to rethink our strategies of managing conflict”, he added.

Participants in all the regions admitted that there exist complex issues in their communities that could spark violent conflict. What is impressive is that all appreciated the importance of building inclusive, tolerant, and peaceful societies for development.

“Peace is the bedrock of all endeavours to advance society. Our communities and country at large, are no exception to this reality. To make our communities peaceful, rights and dignity of all must be guaranteed and respected”, Wuday Sanneh, a member of Song Kunda Young Female Network. 

Traditionally, many factors such as joking relations and inter-marriage, held members of communities in the country together. This made The Gambia famous and enviable for its long stability and peace in the sub-region and beyond.

“The Gambia has been a champion of peace and stability in West Africa and beyond. This is as a result of the sacrifices of our forebearers. For us to maintain this, we need to dialogue more, respect each other, appreciate our differences and see ourselves as Gambians than any other classification, and ensure equality”, Lamin Sainey Sonko, Alkalo of Katamina.

The 4th December Presidential Election in The Gambia will be a watershed moment in the country’s political history. It is the first since the country’s democratic transition in 2016. Gambians’ political interest is arguably at an all-time high. This argument is supported by the fact that over ten political parties have registered since the last Presidential Election. However, many people are worried that the spread of misinformation, fake news, and the use of vulgar language online against political party opponents, their leaders, and even other tribes might jeopardize the political and democratic progress.

“Misinformation, fake news and use of vulgar language by political party supporters against opponents especially on social media is scary. This attitude is a threat to our peace and security and serves no one’s interest. We can politic while we remain respectful and tolerant”, Yusupha Jobe, Katamina.

The activity: Community Dialogue on Peace and Inclusion, which targeted four regions of the country, directly reached 160 people, the majority of whom are women and young people, thanks to the UN Peacebuilding Fund through UNFPA The Gambia.

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