By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Last week the Ministry of Youths and Sports (MOYS) issued a ‘Dissolution letter’ to the National Youth Council (NYC) on September 4th, 2017. This controversial decision has seen series of meetings and discussions between the youths and their stake holders [MOYS and the Civil Society Organisations] last week. Gainako has been following up on this story and published a story earlier this week stating that the MOYS promised to revoke the dissolution letter. Following due diligence, Gainako contacted the MOYS, Hon. Henry Gomez on 13th August 2017, to confirm statements attributed to him and to clarify if the NYC will be dissolved or not.
Flex Dan: Is the MOYS still going to dissolve the NYC or has this decision been reversed?
Hon. Henry Gomez: In the NYC act there is a clause which prevents board members from criticising the Government or the Ministry.
FD: Which clause or section is that?
HG: I don’t have the act here with me at the moment as I am currently in a meeting. We haven’t decided yet if we will revoke the decision or dissolve the NYC. I sat down with the youths and discussed with them. This dissolution has to do with the whole ministry because we are implementing reforms. The previous President was using the NYC for his own interest. They change all the laws whereby anything that happens to the youths they are answerable to the President. If that is the case there is no need to the have the Ministry of youths. Somebody has to be there to control and advise the youths. But if you say something the youths respond with “we are answerable to the President.” We need to change for the better, not for the worst. I am not criticising the youths I’m here for the youths. We are going for reforms and the reforms will impact everybody.
FD: If there is going to be a reform of the NYC is it not better involve the youths in the reform process so that the reforms will be successful? The youths have said that [MOYS staff] Mengeh Jaiteh threatened Baboucarr Kebbeh that the NYC will be dissolved. Are you aware of that?
HG: As a leader, I will not run away from my responsibilities. Anything that Mengeh does the Minister has given the instructions. This is coming from my Ministry, so I cannot pretend as if I am not aware of it or as if this is not my instruction. When Kebbeh decided to go on the internet writing, Kebbeh is a board member and there are other board members. They should know that if we do this then this will happen. We should tell our young brothers and sisters the truth.
FD: That they should not criticise the government?
HG: No, this is a new Gambia everybody can criticise the government. But if the youth are talking about Summer Camp. Summer Camp has been here before I came. If they are talking about NACON we have already discussed NACON and the budget of NACON. We are not spending money on projects that are unnecessary. We need to ensure that our criticisms are genuine. I called the youths to come and see me and after the meeting, I gave them transport to go home. The next day I see they are criticising the MOYS. They should wait until we have agreed a resolution to the problem before going public.
FD: Baboucarr Kebbeh raised series of concerns facing the youths. Do you think some of the concerns being raised are reasonable? They claim that they don’t have the right equipment like fuel, stationery and other basic equipment? The youths also raised concerns that they are clueless on the direction that the MOYS is heading.
HG: When I learned about the concerns I was out of town in Germany. I called the MOYS and advised them that where there is smoke there is fire. I advised them to work on the concerns. I found out that the claim wasn’t right because they had the necessary equipment. I accept that it came late and that it should have arrived earlier. But if you don’t have something in your hand how can you give. I think that before they go on Facebook, they should come to speak to us and discuss the issue so we can resolve the issue.
FD: Lack of dialogue is certainly a problem in African politics.
HG: We all know where Gambia is coming from. Now we have a new Gambia and we all fought for it. That’s why they called it Gambia has decided. If we want a better Gambia to let us be ready to sit together and dialogue. I don’t have any fight with anybody. All that I am interested in is to have a better Gambia with a legacy for our children.
FD: I’m sure together with the youths you can work towards a legacy. I have been in discussion with one of the board members. They hope that this can be a way forward through dialogue. Some of the youths who have stated that you promised that you will revoke the dissolution? The youths have also been in discussion with CSO on this matter. The youths don’t recognize the dissolution letter because the mandate to dissolve the NYC resides with the President? Is the dissolution going to be canceled?
HG: I will sit down with the MOYS and discuss with them. This is what I told the youths, we will all sit down together and reason together. The President is my boss I will reason with the big man also. Whatever the big man advise me to do that’s what I will do. But at this present moment, the doors are not closed. I am not a dictator and the President is not a dictator. We will look at the laws and we will sit down and reason.
FD: Did you promise to revoke the dissolution or was that something made up?
HG: I don’t know where they got this from. When they came into the office I said I will sit down with the Permanent Secretary and the whole ministry to discuss it then we will decide on the best thing to do. I told them that I will not do anything against the law or against the principles of the Coalition and the President. All I will do is what the law allows me to do and what the President allows me to do.
FD: If we are going to follow the law then only the President can dissolve the youths and that will have to come from his office.
HG: The problem is that we have so many acts that are not clear. We have an act from 2000, one from 2010, it’s not clear which is current.
FD: The latest one I believe is 2009 with guidelines allowing dissolution of the NYC by the President. There was one in 2000 with guidelines allowing dissolution by the Secretary of State.
HG: Yeah but if you check, did the National Assembly pass the changes? That is another question. This is why I said I will sit down with the President to hear his advice on which act is valid and then we will follow the right procedures.
FD: We have been working with the youths. They have done a really great job in trying to bring change for the New Gambia. It’s true maybe some individuals were being used by the regime but certainly, there were a significant number of youths who fought against the dictatorship. They went around, lobbied their fellow youths to get there voters card and with that vote they voted in President Adama Barrow.
HG: To put you in the right direction, I will not do anything against the youths. Because I was once a youth man. I always say that I am born in the ghetto, I am a ghetto youth man. But we cannot solve problems with violence. We can only solve problems by reasoning with one another, dialogue. I will not use other means to castigate the youths. I will not do it, but let us all have the understanding and listen to one another. Because this Facebook posts, will not solve problems. Problems are resolved when we sit down and dialogue. To give you the assurance, I know what the youths have sacrificed and I will wine and dine with them. Yes, I am a part and parcel of them and I will not do anything which will jeopardize their freedom or which will jeopardize their happiness. God forbid. This shouting, this jumping, insulting and wrong statements will not take us anywhere. This was not why we fought for change. We fought for change together because we wanted our freedom back, we wanted our happiness back, and we wanted our unity back. So God has blessed us with it. Now we have Gambia in our hands that’s why we called it Gambia has decided. We didn’t say that Thomas or Lamin or Modou or Susan or Bintou has decided. No, but Gambia and Gambia is bigger than all of us. Nobody will come from outside and change Gambia for us. The youths are the future leaders of tomorrow. We have to change our attitudes. Not every small thing we will run to the Facebook start castigating one another, start insulting people’s parents, start calling people’s names. It wouldn’t solve things.
FD: If any of the youths have done that then they will not be supported on that. Baboucarr Kebbeh has said that he has been highlighting some of these concerns for over six months. Is this true?
HG: Baboucarr Kebbeh is a board member right? Baboucarr Kebbeh knows how to contact the Ministry?
FD: And he says he has been engaging the Ministry for the last six months, is that wrong?
HG: If Baboucarr Kebbeh came and said I want to see the Minister, my door is open 24/7. Nobody will come and say that I wanted to see the Minister and I turned them down. I often go and call people to come for dialogue. There is no border line between me and Kebbeh. Kebbeh just made a mistake which he has to accept. But I have nothing against him and he can always come to the office to dialogue with me.
FD: At the start of the year there were 10 million Euros of aid for youths issued by the EU meant for youth empowerment. Some of the youths are expecting that the funds should trickle down into youth activities. These are some concerns that young people are having. Is that a genuine concern?
HG: We need to have patience. The 10 million is something that I have no idea about. All I know of is the 11 Million Euros which has been given to the Ministry of Trade. That 11 Million is called the YEP Project. We have to put our project in place and it’s not we who can decide. Because the YEP Project is cultivated by Europeans even the consultants are all Europeans. These funds are not in our ministry. We are doing our best with NEDI putting on programs and putting on projects to be funded. We cannot just ask for money and expect them to be given to us like that.
FD: We will be looking forward to your decision on the NYC and will appreciate an update when a decision has been agreed on the dissolution of the NYC.
HG: We will all sit together and discuss and anything we finalise I promise you I will let you know for sure I will let you know. Be assured that I am not working against anybody, I am not a human hunter, and I am not a dictator. I will listen to everybody, I will collect ideas, I will collect advice and then we will do the right thing.
FD: Thank you for your time, Hon. Henry Gomez