Banjul Youths demand more Representation for Marginalised Groups in new Constitution

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By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

On Thursday 29th November 2018 the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) represented by mostly youths held a dialogue with youths of Banjul North at Saint Augustine’s High School Hall. This was one of a series of consultative meetings with youths across the country. The meeting began with an explanation of the CRC Act and how it includes a process to collate recommendations from all citizens including youths. According to the African Youth Charter, a youth is anybody within the age of 15 and 35.

Corporate Lawyer Salieu Taal gave an introduction on the importance of the new Constitution and why everybody needs to engage in it to effect a new Constitution for all that’s better than the 1997 Constitution which favoured the previous APRC regime. Everybody needs to engage to ensure that all Gambians of all tribes, youths, and diversity are reflected in the constitution.

“The chance that you have now is historic as this is a chance to build a better future for youths of today and generations to come.” ~ Salieu Taal

Throughout the meeting Lawyer Taal made interjections to guide the crowd and highlighted the importance of rule of law. “If the IG arrests anybody they need to follow the law.” To conclude his introduction he highlighted the importance of the CRC Issues document which highlights around 365 issues presented to the general public via the internet and various means. Issues that are not included in the Issues Document are also welcome for consideration.

CRC T-Shirt Slogan encouraging Youths to Speak Up

Fatou F Jawo, the deputy speaker of the National Youth Parliament The Gambia, apologised to the public for the late start and introduced the team which included Aminata Manneh from Peace Ambassadors the Gambia, Mr Jobarteh from the Initiative for the Promotion of Democracy and Good Governance, Ansumana Camara of Activista the Gambia and Alpha Bah from Youth Ambassadors The Gambia. With a simple question, she explained the core essence of the dialogue.

“As young people of this country what do you think should be included in the New Constitution to be drafted?” She lamented the fact that youths are not catered for, especially those from 18 to 30, the physically challenged and women. In her view the opportunities that citizens over the youth bracket are afforded are not extended to youths. “The only way to ensure that our voices are included in the law is for youths to engage each other, collate views and ensure that the government and the CRC include them going forward.”

In all these past years the youths have been used by politicians for Political expediency, relegating youths to party supporters but when it comes to Ministerial and Political positions, youths are very under-represented. This year things have improved due to the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign which encouraged youths to run for elected positions. We can do better than just being party supporters who clap for their leaders, celebrating their victory.

“We are also leaders and this is why we don’t want to be called future leaders every day. Everyday future leaders never actually lead but present leaders mean we are leading right now.” ~ Fatou F Jawo

Delegates at the BJL North Youth CRC Engagement

Dialogue with youths in attendance was conducted by Musa Jobateh who raised questions and solicited comments and responses from delegates present. When a bottleneck was observed a vote was held by a show of hands.

Citizenship By Birth

The first questions asked was on the issue of citizenship by birth. The CRC issues document asks a number of questions in this regard. “There are a number of non-Gambians who migrated to The Gambia and have lived in and had children born and raised in and went through the school system in The Gambia. Neither the parents nor the children have been naturalized or registered as citizens of The Gambia. Should this class of children be considered in the review process with a view to addressing their status in the draft Constitution (such as by granting them citizenship under and by virtue of the new Constitution)? What about their parents?”

In response, Muhammed Sailu Bah explained that there are over 80,000 people who are stateless in Africa. According to WorldStateless.org “At the end of 2015 UNHCR recorded 1,021,418 persons under its statelessness mandate in Africa, but the real figure is probably much higher..”

Youth, Women, Disabled and Marginalised Representation

“Are the current constitutional provisions relating to the rights of ‘marginalised groups’ of Gambian society, in particular, the youth and physically challenged persons, considered to be adequate?”

Mikailu Ngum, a visually impaired young man currently studying his Teachers course spoke for people with disability. According to him, the new constitution should include more representation for people who are visually impaired, the disabled should be given more of a role to participate in politics and contest in different elections. Persons of disability should be involved in all sectors of government, example health agriculture, local government, environment and every other sector to make the representation more representative of society.

Gainako’s Yusef Taylor commonly known as Flex Dan highlighted that the National Assembly currently allows five nominated National Assembly Members (NAMs) who are nominated by the President. This needs to change so that those five nominated NAMs are selected by Civil Society Organisations. The officially recognised disability society can select their Champion as a representative, similarly the National Youth Council, Women and two other marginalised sectors of society.

Voters Cards

Should there be introduced a continuing voter registration system (thus eliminating the current arrangement on general registration and supplementary registration)?

According to Fatou Darboe every year the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should allow the issue of voter’s card because every year you get new voters. After this election which passed those who are 17 the following year that person turns 18 but such a person has to wait for another five years to be able to get a voters card. That is not sufficient especially given the fact that voters sensitisation needs to be a continuous issue for the general public informing them of when to vote and who exactly should have a voters card because in Banjul we see a lot of people who have voters card but shouldn’t have one.

Musa Bah, Councillor for Half Die Ward stated that the process should be a continuous process, which shouldn’t stop before and during elections. The Government needs to support more youths in sports to ensure that youth budget is increased because a lot of youths are interested in pursuing a career in sports.

Muhammed Sailu Bah who worked with the IEC stated that politicians abuse the supplementary voter’s registration process. The attestation process is often circumvented to get minors registered to vote. He highlighted that one simple way we can deal with this issue is to ensure that The Gambia deals with its data problem and for the IEC needs to synchronise their data by using ID cards instead of separate cards for voting. He highlighted standard best practice in Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania and Senegal next door who vote with their voter’s card. To buttress his argument he highlights that the IEC spends 60 Million Gambian Dalasis to acquire voter’s card. He explained the process of transferring data between government institutions to streamline the process of voting in The Gambia.

Watch out for the second installment to this intriguing dialogue.

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