By Mamour M. Mbenga
As the supplementary voter registration exercise being conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will be finishing on Saturday 12 March 2016, this reporter was out and about in the Serekunda to enquire from young people whether or not they have registered to get a voter’s cards and why.
Talking to one Ablie Mbye, a young man who lives in Bundung, in the weekend, he explained that he has already registered as this is his power and voice as a citizen. He said he is going to vote in the forthcoming presidential election scheduled for 1 December this year.
“Any citizen who is worthy of the name should get a voter’s card in order to participate in elections to select honest, efficient and good representatives to serve the people and country,” said Mr. Mbye.
Buba Ceesay, another youth who also resides in Bundung, said any citizen who does not have a voter’s card should not complain about any problem in the country.
“The voter’s card is your power to choose who should represent you and if you do not make efforts to get a card to select a good representative then you have no right to complain,” he admonished.
Mr. Ceesay said he saw some young people who are arguing that the voter’s card cannot make any change. “These young people are making a great mistake by not registering to get a voter’s cards in order to vote for the candidate they feel could serve the collective interest of the people. How can you get what you want if you do not vote?” he asked.
Mr. Ceesay noted that the only problem with this ongoing supplementary registration is that many young people are with the understanding that one has to pay One Hundred Dalasi before being issued with a voter’s card.
“This IEC should quickly address this issue and correct the misconception among young people who believe that they have to pay D100 for the voter’s card,” said Ceesay.
Visiting a corner street vous or meeting place in Serekunda London Corner, this reporter met a group of young people sitting down and doing the daily traditional ‘ritual’ of brewing and drinking ‘ataya’ or Chinese green tea. When he enquired from them whether they are aware of the ongoing registration and had registered, the response from the majority of them was in the positive. They explained that they are all facing hardships as a result of unemployment which, according to them, is a political issue that can be solved by voting for the right people at elections.
“The voter’s card is what we can use to either solve our problems or create problems for ourselves,” said Famara Saidy.
When asked to explain how or why, he responded “the card is voice with which you can use to choose a good or bad representative through election.” He added that this is why people should take voter registration and elections very seriously as these are very important exercises in the life of every citizen.
Ousainou Bittaye of Ebo Town also reiterated the importance of voter registration and advices every young Gambian who is eligible to vote to go and register.
“It is the voter’s card that can get us good political leaders who can solve the problems facing us the youth, such as the unemployment and the back way journey that is attracting but killing many young people who want to become independent and productive to support themselves and parents and siblings,” he said.
A young woman from Serekunda also shared her opinion on the issue of voter registration and election.
Binta Drammeh said the problem of not registering affects the young men more than the women. “In fact I’ve not seen any eligible young or old woman who does not have a voter’s card. It is mostly the young men who do not register but complain the most about the problems of the country,” she said.
She added “the question with the women is whether they know value of the card or make the right choice at elections?”
Another woman, Ya Ndey, who is 40 years old, said the issue of not registering to acquire a voter’s card is more of a problem affecting the youth in urban area than in the provinces. She however added that this trend is changing as many young people in the urban centres have now got voter’s cards and could vote in elections.