By Omar Bah
The executive director of the National Youths Council has advised young people to avoid starting or getting entangled in any political violence during and after the December presidential election.
Addressing a two-day sensitization meeting organised by the Commission on Political Debates, Alagie Jarju said: “When you mention violence, we [youths] have been stereotyped and associated with it but the fact remains that we don’t declare war. It is the politicians that declare war. But unfortunately, it is you and I who would be in the frontline causing the havoc.
“We end up being the perpetrators and victims at the same time. If a politician knows full well that when he calls for violence he will not have the backing of the young people, he will certainly not call for it. But if he is assured he has the youth wing behind him and could lead them to the streets, he will readily do so. Therefore, let us make them understand that this country is ours and all we do is to ensure we are able to develop it for today and for posterity.”
He said when politicians understand that young people are not prepared to be used to cause havoc, they will think twice before declaring war.
Mr Jarju further stated that political discussions in the Gambia should shift from character assassination to issues and polices. “The NYC and its sister institutions have worked hard to encourage and mobilise young people to register in the last voter registration. But those efforts would be futile if young people fail to turn out in their numbers on December 4 to vote. At the level of NYC, we will continue to encourage and mobilise young people to come out and vote,” Jarju said.
He urged young people to closely monitor the different presidential candidates during the campaign so that they will make informed choices in December. “You have to make sure that you identify the candidate who will serve your interest,” he said. Jarju said the NYC will organise training for a number of young people who are interested in observing the electoral process.
He assured the young people that the government will continue to create the enabling environment to strive.
The UNDP country representative, Aissata De said young people should use their numerical advantage to promote peace and stability during and after the presidential election.
“In politics, you can always disagree but it should be based on issues of national interest and when doing this, let it be based on respect for one another,” she said.
The diplomat, who was praised at the meeting for her immense contribution and love for young people, said youths should have a common interest in nation-building at all times. She urged the different party representatives to take good advantage of the training and foster the spirit of national unity.
Raymond Esebagbon, the country director of the National Democratic Institute, NDI, reminded the young politicians that democracy is all about trading ideas. He said the NDI has also been engaging young people who have shown interest in monitoring the polls.
The training, sponsored by UNDP, brought together youth leaders from all political parties at the Metzy Hotel who were prepared to be peace advocates through constructive debates.