By Kebba Jeffang
The National council for civic education (NCCE) as part of their routine exercise recently concluded a two weeks community sensitization exercise in Central River Regions- North &South (CRR-N&S) to raise the awareness of the citizens on civic participation and responsibility in governance, politics, democracy and citizenship.
Mr. Yusupha Bojang, the Programme Officer NCCE, said the exercise was part of their ongoing efforts to cultivate an environment of democratic continuity in The Gambia that will enable all citizens to fully participate in the governance process of the country. He said this is to be done through the promotion of political and civic consciousness, and the promotion of rights and freedoms of all citizens in accordance with the constitution of The Gambia and other regional and international legal instruments to which the Gambia is a signatory.
He said among the themes discussed in the exercise were Democracy, Governance, Politics Citizenship, Civic Participation and Civic Responsibility.
“The activity covers eighty- four communities in CRR- north and south. Communities engaged stretches from Sami Pachonki in Sami district to Kaur in Saloum and from Sare Soffe in Upper Fulladu West to Sinchujugary in Niamina Dankunku,” said Bojang.
Presenting on Civic engagement or Civic Participation, Mr. Ansumana Yabo, Civic Education Supervisor of NCCE defined civic participation an individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern. He said Civic engagement has many elements, but in its most basic sense it is about decision making, or governance over who, how, and by whom a community’s resources will be allocated.
“The principle of civic engagement underscores the most basic principle of democratic governance i.e. that sovereignty resides ultimately in the people (the citizenry). Civic engagement is about the right of the people to define the public good, determine the policies by which they will seek the good, and reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good. It can also be summarized as a means of working together to make a difference in the civil life of our communities and developing the combination of skills, knowledge, values, and motivation in order to make that difference. It is a means of promoting a quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes, said Yabo
Mr. Yabo added that Civic Responsibly is also fundamental which refers to the responsibilities of a citizen. He said it is comprises actions and attitudes associated with democratic governance and social participation, adding that actions of citizen’s civic responsibility can be displayed in advocacy for various causes, such as political, economic, civil and environmental or quality of life issues. He said Civic responsibility can also include the obligation to be honest, compassionate, tolerant, fair, trustworthy, respectful, open minded, and open to negotiation and compromise.
Mr. Kebba O. Jobe, NCCE Civic Education Officer educating the rural communities on elections said it formed a crucial part of democracy. He said elections are probably the most obvious aspect of national democracies; many people equate democracy with the idea of elections, and slogans like ‘one person one vote’. He said elections embody the essential principle that those who rule should be accountable to their citizens.
“Holding elected leaders to account is the only way to be sure that they won’t misuse their positions. For elections to truly reflect this principle of accountability, they have to be free (without pressurizing the voters) and fair (without tampering with voting procedures), and they should happen at regular intervals such as every four to five years. As important as elections are, they are only one part of democracy,” said Jobe.
He said democracy is believed to be the best form of government in the world because there are many factors due to which it is considered as effective for the progress of a nation.
He said apart from equal opportunities, irrespective of caste or religion and the useful rights, the fundamental right of voting is an advantage for people living in a democratic country, citing that it is why voting is important and must be understood clearly for own advantages.
“The theory is that the people control the government by electing its head (president) and by choosing the members of a legislature or parliament that can exercise continuous supervision over the government on the people’s behalf, through its power to approve or reflect legislation and taxation. Elections are not in themselves a sufficient condition for the existence of democracy. This is so because elections can be used by authoritarian regimes to give false sense of democracy such as restriction on who is allowed to stand for election, the true amount of power that elected representatives are allowed to hold, or the policies that they are permitted to choose while in office, Voting which is not truly free or most simply through falsification of the results,” said O. Jobe.
Junkung K. Saidy, also a Civic Education Officer on his discussion on Good governance said its importance includes participatory, transparent and accountable. He said it is also effective and equitable and it promotes the rule of law.
“Good governance ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in society and that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in decision-making over the allocation of development resources,” Saidy informed.
He said the characteristics of good governance defined in societal terms include participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, Consensus orientation, Equity, Effectiveness and efficiency, Accountability and Strategic vision.