By Mustapha Jallow
Officials of the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) on Thursday, wrapped up a community dialogue they organised with traditional authorities, women leaders and youths on the voter registration exercise at Brikama, West Coast Region.
About four hundred (400) participants across the five regions- West Coast, Lower River, North Bank, Central River and Upper River were engaged in the dialogue sessions.
The activity was part of ongoing efforts to spur massive and popular participation in the voter registration exercise. This will help strengthen the capacities of the participants, especially traditional authorities (Alkalolu and Chiefs) on the electoral laws, with special focus on requirements to acquire a voter’s card as well as the criteria for the issuance of an attestation as one of the requirements to obtain a voter’s card.
The need to follow due process to seek redress, and maintain peace and orderliness throughout the process was equally highlighted. The dialogue sessions in the five regions were attended by regional governors/deputies, chiefs, Alkalolu, women leaders and youths.
The event, which was held at the Governor’s office in Brikama under the theme “Credible Voter Registry, the Cornerstone for a Free, Fair and Transparent Selection’’, was supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Yusupha Bojang, Program Manager of the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), said the purpose of the dialogue was to enlighten the traditional authorities, especially the Alkalolu and chiefs with regard to the ongoing voter registration exercise.
He added that part of the requirements for one to have a voter’s card is attestation, adding the authorities that are mandated to issue out the attestation are either the chiefs or the Alkalou.
“If you look at these traditional authorities, most of them are not literate in the English language and most of these documents are written in English,’’ Bojang said.
Bojang said these prompted NCCE to engage the chiefs and Alkalolu about the criteria that are required for one to be able to get an attestation from the Alkalolu. But he said there are a lot of gaps on them as to who should or not get the attestation.
He said they came to know these during their face to face interactions. He further said the engagement will help the Alkalolu to be on better footing, saying there are a lot of complaints that are coming out from the public with regard to attestation.
According to Bojang, the concerns raised are that some are wrongly getting attestation, something he said they couldn’t independently confirm.
“Once the registration is done in a free and fair manner, we are hopeful that the campaign, and even the election itself will also be in an orderly manner. But when chaos starts, it may lead to disaster,’’ NCCE’s Bojang said.
He advised observers to maintain decorum and orderliness at the registration centres. He asked them to note down anything that is not going right at the centres, so that the wrong can be corrected immediately without any push and pull.
“We don’t take the law into our lands and start harassing people or questioning them how they get that particular card and so on. What the law says is very clear: bring an ID card, passport or birth certificate that specifies that your parents are Gambians,’’ he said.
Musa Susso, deputy governor WCR, said sometimes lack of understanding of issues lead to problems and conflict, but added that when people are sensitized on those issues, the problems will not be many.
He urged both listeners to share what they have learned during the dialogue to community members as well as enlighten them about the wrong and right too.
Alhajie Jammeh K.K. Bojang, Chief of Kombo Central district/Brikama described the dialogue as timely and important, saying people are anticipating and talking about the upcoming election, thus, it is good for them to be engaged on what is right or wrong.
Chief Bojang said the participants were also told to desist from abusing each other’s right to ensure peace and stability prevails in the country.
Isatou F. Cham, lady councilor, advised party supporters to be peaceful and give due respect to other supporters, especially elders.
Cham promised to distribute the information she received to her colleagues who could not witness the face to face dialogue with NCCE officials.