Access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water is a basic human rights. The Community of Faraba Sutu like many other communities in The Gambia are still struggling to access safe, clean and accessible water. Ahead of the National Assembly Elections, the people of Faraba Sutu in Kombo East say they will accept to be fooled thus they will vote wisely in this podcast produced by Binta Jarju. . Binta Jarju 1- final product
In 2016, President Adama fled the country to Senegal where he took the oath of office because the environment was not conducive for his continued stay in the Gambia. It was the first and only time that Gambians voted out a President through the ballot box. There is a gap in the laws as it fails to capture how the government would transition from one regime to another as well as the protection of the incoming president. There was no handing over from former President Jammeh to President Barrow because the former was using State security. Both the Gambian Constitution and the Elections Act provide no specific provisions that oblige the State security apparatus to provide protection for an incoming president elected under an opposition party or independent candidate ticket. This poses a significant threat to the elected leader and the immediate family members, as they are left unprotected until their inauguration. Security threat underestimated In 2016, President-elect Adama Barrow (as he was then), was forced to hire private security guards from Senegal to protect him in addition to the civilian volunteers who sacrificed their lives to protect him. This was because he had no access to state security for protection. Barrow ended up taking refuge in Dakar for his safety, especially when his predecessor Yahya A.J.J Jammeh refused to relinquish power. Citizens have since shown concern about this lacuna in the legal instruments and urge the authorities to enact laws that would oblige the state security forces to provide protection for the incoming president, especially when elected from the opposition parties or on an independent ticket. Aminata Correa, a media assistant at the then Coalition 2016 Media Unit headquartered at the Kairaba Beach Hotel recalled the insecurities that surrounded the then President-elect, Adama Barrow. This was largely due to the fact that the people who volunteered to protect the president-elect were inexperienced in providing presidential security. “The uncertainty at the time and the risk involved made it necessary for the President-elect to be given the security. I think we had underestimated how serious the threat was. Anything could have happened to the president-elect before he was flown out of the country,” she said. Correa maintained that there is a need for a security sector reform that would take care of the lacuna, stating the experience in 2016 was a textbook description of how the former administration treated opponents. Muhammed Joof was among the people who volunteered to guard Adama Barrow during the 2016 political impasse, following the presidential election. He endured attacks as he was allegedly stabbed by the supporters of ex-President Jammeh in Tallinding at night, while closing from his guard duty. Joof sustained injuries and he was threatened that he would be killed for serving as a close security protection personnel to the 2016 Coalition. The matter was reported at the Tallinding Police Station and the police command commissioned an investigation which found that Joof sustained injuries. Absolute protection The Deputy Party leader of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) Amadou Kah, believes that the incoming president should be provided with “absolute protection” together with their immediate families. He said incoming presidents represent the will of the people – the verdict of the people, and that the position they are elected into represents democracy – “the survival of our democracy.” “They should feel safe not only that they can trust, but also, they should feel safe that they will be able to assume the Office of President at the required time as mandated by the Constitution in peace and stability,” Kah said. “Another important aspect here is not only about having a law providing a mechanism, but I think it is very fundamental that the institutions that are responsible for such protection to be educated, to be enlightened [and] to be strengthened. [We] need to build the institution in such a way that they would only serve the Constitution and the will of the people without affection or ill-will.” The civil society leader Marr Nyang, said the best practice in a democratic society is when one is elected as a President, he or she receives security protection from the State. “It is obligatory on the State to provide security protection for the president-elect.” “Not only to receive security protection, but the president-elect should also receive security briefings from the heads of the security apparatuses that will also help the president-elect to acquaint him or herself with the security status of the country so that once the person assumes office, he or she can smoothly go through the transition.”’ Marr said the cabinet of the incoming president should receive briefing from the cabinet of the outgoing president so that the handing over and the transition could be done smoothly, suggesting security sector reform to accommodate such issues. According to him, Barrow’s cabinet did not receive proper security briefing from their predecessor and they were not prepared to tackle the urgent security needs. “There was no clear briefing from the outgoing cabinet to the incoming cabinet. There has to be a law that will govern the process and procedure of protecting the incoming president and his cabinet, sharing of the briefing regarding the security of the country and then also briefings from the outgoing cabinet to the incoming cabinet.” “Those issues should be clearly laid out in our laws,” he said. A young politician, Kemeseng Sanneh, has also discussed the need for the reforms to create protection for the incoming presidents from the opposition. “I strongly recommend legislation to that effect.” He recalled that Adama Barrow took his oath of office in Senegal because the environment was not ripe for him to take it in The Gambia. “We cannot continue to have our incoming president take his or her oath of office in another country. He or she should be protected, to ensure that the verdict of the people prevail. The situation in 2016, which compelled the President to flee out of the country, should not repeat. Thus, the need for legislative reform,” he said. Extremely important Meanwhile, a lawmaker, Suwaibou Touray, has agreed with the call. “For the interest of peaceful and lawful transfer of power, I believe it is ‘extremely important’ and wise to safeguard the security of our leaders as well as ensuring that our electoral process is sustained and predictable,” Touray said. However, lawyer Abdoulie Fatty said he is not sure whether there is a need for a special legislation to deal with the matter. He said what happened during the reign of former President Jammeh was atrocious and abnormal. He cited the December 4, 2021 presidential elections where the police provided all the candidates protection during the campaign period. “That's the duty of the police and even the NIA,” he said, adding, “Jammeh just monopolised those institutions.” Lawyer Fatty said if President Barrow had lost last year’s election, “I am sure the police would have enhanced protection for them befitting a President-elect and being equally entitled to intelligence briefings.” He added: “I do not personally think we need special legislation to address this issue. What we need is strong justice sector institutions such as the police.” He said in both the UK and the Unites States of America, the leading opposition candidate is briefed by security chiefs just in case he or she wins they would have had a reasonable idea of the state of the country's intelligence. “Again, a president-elect is a president in waiting. Therefore, he or she is entitled to enhanced security to protect him or her and should also be entitled to a lot of the benefits that the incumbent is entitled to in terms of access to state facilities,” Fatty said. “I mean meetings with the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Staff, National Intelligence Agency director, so that as soon as he or she is sworn in, they would have had some knowledge of the state of affairs.”
Just as the scorpions of The Gambia are making history, past and current students of the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication are also shinning in Cameroon. The Gambia is participating in the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in the country's history. This is the same for many of the sports journalists from the tiny West African country. About a dozen journalists from The Gambia are currently in Cameroon. Five of these are past and current students of MAJaC. While the scorpions continues to sting on the pitch, MAJaC students on the ground are keeping Gambians home and abroad up to date with all the happenings in the Afcon. Amadou Tamba, a Diploma student at the Academy and a sports journalist for one of the biggest radio station in The Gambia, Capital FM said, he is making good use of the knowledge and skills gained at the Academy at the AFCON. He said since he joined MAJaC his production, writing skills as well as his confidence and analytical skills improved immensely. He added that he is also a lot more confident to interact with colleagues from other countries. "We meet a lot of journalist from Africa so the interactions is a key component here. I learnt a lot at MAJac. I have no problems speaking in the midst of other journalists from Africa and other parts of the world thanks to the confidence MAJaC trainers put in me," Tamba said. Dawda Baldeh, a certificate student working for a renowned online platform, The Fatu Network said his studies at MaJaC did not only helped him in his coverage of the Afcon but in his career as well. "When I was joining the media, I had little experience but since I joined MAJaC, I have improved drastically.” Baldeh said the quality of studies at MAJaC is high enough to prepare anyone for any journalistic tasks. "Right now I can say I am not afraid to be assigned for any form of coverage. Because I know the kind of training I got from MAJaC," he added. Sally Jeng the only female among the five is an Advanced Diploma student. Sally said her studies at MAJaC is what make her who she is today. She said she remembered how she struggled as a reporter and how that has changed since she joined MAJaC. Sally is filing stories for an international media, Radio France International. She is one of the few Gambian journalists filing stories for an international medium. Click to read her stories: https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20220125-dream-on-gambia-s-scorpions-bask-in-glory-of-reaching-cup-of-nations-last-eight https://www.rfi.fr/en/sports/20220117-scorpions-sting-gambia-s-afcon-hopes-still-alive-following-draw-against-mali https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20220119-gambia-s-top-forward-babucarr-trawally-leaves-africa-cup-of-nations-afcon-under-controversy-football The trio advice young journalist from MAJaC urged students at the same academy to take their professional training seriously. They all said studying at MAJaC can be challenging because the trainers there prepare students for the rigours of the newsroom. Momodou S Jallow and Uthman Jeng both of whom are former students of the Academy are also currently in Cameroon delivering topnotch reports and photographs respectively for their media.
Experts and stakeholders have frowned upon the involvement of children in political activities. They encourage parents to keep their children away from political activities while urging political parties to desist in carrying children to their rallies. Click on the play button to listen Lenisa Gomez report. https://www.majac.gm/news-details/parents-must-keep-their-children-away-from-participating-in-political-activities
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Following the presidential election in December, Gambian voters are all set to make another important decision as they prepare to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election in April and the local government election next year. On top of the agenda, especially for young Gambians, is the high unemployment rate, which forced many into criminal activities as well as endangering their lives on a perilous journey to Europe, using the backway in search of greener pastures. According to the 2018 Labour Force Survey conducted by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics’ (GBoS), the youth unemployment rate has increased to 41.5%. A 20-year-old, Nfamara Jammeh, a native of Banjul said they would vote for the candidate who will advocate youth employment during the parliamentary election so that the current government will find a solution to solve the youth unemployment in the country in 2022. The consequence of youth unemployment has been tipped to be the cause of the rising violent crime, armed robbery, theft, and prostitution in the country. Jammeh added when the unemployment rate is high in a country, it would cause crimes such as theft, robbery, and certain immoral behaviours in the society. Jammeh urged the government to ensure that the rate of unemployment is reduced by allowing investors to create more job opportunities for the young people of this country. He stressed that it is frustrating for youngsters to complete more than a decade of expensive education and suffer afterward without jobs. According to the national employment policy and action plan 2022 to 2030, glaring employment deficits both in terms of levels and quality highlight the need for comprehensive national employment policies that provide a clear framework for addressing working poverty, creating jobs, increasing earnings of male and female employees and decreasing youth unemployment and discouragement. Another youth, Lamin Fofana, a 20-year-old who lives in Abuko, said lack of employment is affecting him as job opportunities are rarely available causing his frustration. “We are the youth, and we need jobs to earn a living. We are tired of depending on our parents for a living,” he lamented. He said lack of employment has pushed him away from his community stigmatisation that he lacks ambition since he had completed secondary school education. In terms of voting, Fofana decided that he will vote for a parliamentary candidate who is committed to supporting policies that would reduce unemployment among youth. According to the GBoS Labour Force Survey, among the working-age population, 14.9 percent are economically active while 85 percent are usually economically inactive. And for those who were outside the labour force, 39.8 percent are between the ages 15 to 24 and 31 percent are of the ages 36-64 while 29 percent are between 25-35 years. Mamadou Jallow, a 25-year-old who lives in Wellingara in the West Coast Region, said he will only vote for candidates who will advocate for youth empowerment during the parliamentary and local government election in 2023. He believed the local government should play a key role by rightfully implementing the taxes paid to the area councils in which 60 percent is mandated to be ploughed back to taxpayers through development. “Community development can create job opportunities for the youth so during the parliamentary election, I will vote for the one (candidate) who will advocate for the creation of jobs in my community because it will help to reduce the unemployment rate among youth,'' he said. Electoral officer verifying details of a voter queuing to vote in Gambia’s local government election on 12th April in 2018 (Photo: Mustapha Ceesay) Alpha Dem, 23, a resident of Old Yundum, said: “We need candidates who will transform [local government] economies and the infrastructure which will improve our opportunity to acquire jobs and reduce the involvement of youth in criminal activities.” A senior media assistant at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Sulayman Ceesay, said the factors responsible for youth unemployment in the Gambia are the quality and relevance of the education system, inflexible labour market, and regulation that in turn create a situation of dependency. “The inadequate skills, lack of experience and a mismatch between education and training and requisite job skills with low space job creations combined with the lack of big industries and the low investment in Agriculture in the Gambia are direct factors creating challenges for youth unemployment in the country,” he said. Ceesay said the Government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports is very much committed to the development, empowerment, and employability of young people as their priority. The ministry recently launched the youth revolving funds to support young people who are into entrepreneurship in order to improve or expand young people's businesses, he said. Lamin Darboe, the former Director of the National Youth Council, recommended the need for economic transformation that will see the creation of a production-based economy that would give young people work in the manufacturing industries as well as in the production value chain. “There is a mismatch between our education and the needs of the economy,” he said, reiterating Ceesay’s point. “We are not providing our youth with the required technical skills in engineering and entrepreneurship to ease their employability.'' According to him, millions are invested in the construction of roads and bridges but the funds go to foreign companies to deliver those services. He said that some job preferences have some socio-cultural stigma and stereotypes around some job functions, which makes the youth not opt for such kinds of work. “The solution to youth unemployment which will also lead to a reduction of crime rate is to adjust the economic system from tax-based to manufacturing and production. Adjust the curricula to suit the labour demands of the economy and standardisation of the employment landscape in the Gambia,” he stated. The ruling party’s manifesto promises the prioritization of employment creation to graduates and skills persons. It stated that more skills training acquisition will be supported while the government will create industries to absorb job seekers to enhance a robust Public-Private-Partnership to support development agenda.
The Gambia is seeing a significant rise in the number of new Covid-19 cases, though the number of covid-related deaths have significantly reduced. Experts have warned that the relaxed nature of observing covid-19 safety protocols before, during and after the presidential elections may are the factor behind the increase in the number of new infections. Massive political rallies were held across the country in November, ahead of the December 4 election, and thereafter, gatherings that are more public were held with little or no covid safety measures. According to health experts, the trend is expected to continue with massive political rallies expected ahead of the parliamentary elections in April this year. It could be recalled that when covid-19 was discovered in the country in March 2020, all public gatherings were suspended to prevent the spread of disease but it is not practised now. The national situational reports from 1 November 2021 to December 16 indicated that 11, 426 new tests were carried out, 80 new cases, 36 recoveries, and 2 deaths were recorded in the Gambia. As of 1 November, the Gambia registered 9, 973 total confirmed cases, 14 active cases, 9, 618 recoveries, 1 new death, and 341 total confirmed deaths. However, as of 31 December 2021, 206 new cases were registered as the fourth wave of covid infections kicked in. Since then, a record 952 new cases have been reported by the Ministry of Health between the 1st and 8th of January 2022. Following the first positive covid case on 17 March 2020, President Adama Barrow-led government suspended all public gatherings; temporarily closed educational institutions and houses of worship; reduced the normal capacity of commercial vehicles and reduced the operational hours of markets. However, at some point in 2020, most of the COVID-19 regulations such as the ban on public gatherings was lifted due to minimised cases; but later in 2021, the Gambia experienced a second wave of the deadly disease. Despite that, public gatherings such as political rallies continued to be held. Despite the low records, Health authorities expect another wave in January 2022. United Democratic Party rally in Bakoteh on December 2, 2021 (Photo: Kerr Fatou) In a Foroyaa newspaper report, the Director of Health Services at the Ministry of Health said on 30 November 2021, that the Gambia is expecting another wave of Covid-19 in January 2022. Gibril Gando Baldeh, senior risk communication and community engagement at health communication unit, Directorate of Health Promotion and Education officer at Ministry of Health (MOH) said the Gambia has just entered its fourth wave of the pandemic and the ministry is aware of the threat, as there is already a sharp rise in cases. “This January, we have seen a sharp rise in cases. Meaning, from three to two (cases) which we were used to reporting in the beginning of December 2021… but coming one month down, we have started seeing a rapid rise in cases and this is alarming,” he expressed. In fighting other covid-19 variants, he said there is still need to use the same strategies that were used before such as the social distancing, hand washing, wearing of face mask, amongst others, to prevent the spread of the virus. However, Baldeh further said: “If the new (fourth) wave is similar to the first wave where we had almost hundred deaths in one month, more than five thousand cases in three months, it would force us to go in to more strict measures and ensuring that anybody who goes against these regulations would be dealt with according to law.” He added that it is obligatory to wear a facemask and adhere to covid-19 measures. He urged everyone to adhere to COVID-19 safety measures and take the jab to prevent widespread the spread of the virus. In a recent publication by the Point newspaper, Omar Sey, former minister of Health of The Gambia said if preventive measures are not put in place in political rallies, more COVID-19 cases could be registered. He justified that overcrowding is one of the factors of spreading the virus among people. “We all know that one thing that spreads the disease is overcrowding because someone may have the virus without symptoms and the person would be shouting while droplets coming from his or her mouth. This is the danger we have because some people do not know their health status,” he said. The former health minister said political rallies cannot be stopped in a year of election, but there is a need for political leaders to work with public health officials at the grassroots to make sure COVID-19 safety precautions are adhered to at all political rallies. He said political leaders should have containers of water with hand sanitizers for supporters at entrances of all political rallies and encourage their supporters to wear face masks properly and regularly to avoid spreading the disease. “The most difficult thing is social distance but they have to be encouraged to distance and avoid hand shaking. That can help in containing the virus,” he advised. Red Cross volunteers stretching a covid-19 corpse for burial in The Gambia(Photo: The Chronicle, The Gambia) Mr. Sey, who was the health minister of The Gambia when Ebola knocked some West African countries, advised the ministry through public health officials to use risk communication, community engagement and involvement strategy in every region. “Let politicians work with public health officials at the regional level to put health measures in place,” he told The Point. He advised the public to adhere to the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization recommendations and to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, a young feminist leader Amanita Jaiteh said women can minimize physical activities and always wear face masks to protect themselves. She encouraged women to participate in online campaigns on digital platforms when they have the access. The young feminist added that for women and children to be protected during this time, there is a need to invest in personal protective equipment for the women and girls by the government. Red Cross volunteers stretching a covid-19 corpse for burial in The Gambia (Photo: The Chronicle, The Gambia) “Political parties can consider hosting rallies in smaller groups at different intervals...,” she suggested. Jaiteh urged the awareness of women and girls to be raised about the dangers of the covid-19 pandemic to stay alert.
Journalists continue to face violence and intimidation for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression.These threats are often rife during elections. In the run up to the parliamentary elections, Our Sheriff Saidykhan zoomed into the need for safety. Click to listen to more: https://soundcloud.com/user-140623569-423216487/gpu-calls-for-safety-of-journalists-ahead-of-parliamentary-elections