By Mustapha Jallow
A team from the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), The Gambia on Monday held a technical meeting with twenty-five (25) young people to review and contextualize a code of conduct for youthsahead of the December presidential elections.
WANEP, who organized the meeting in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), engaged two experts to develop a code of conduct and peace messaging guidelines. The two-day technical meeting will also serve as a platform for meaningful participation of youths in the electoral process. The event was Supported by United Nations Peace-building Fund (UNPBF) through its project.
Expected outputs are: A comprehensive code of conduct for youth leaders and groups for peaceful presidential elections and political transition in the Gambia, 2. guidelines for peace messaging by young people before, during and after the Gambia Presidential Election, 3. peace messaging themes (including in major local languages) that support Information, Education 4. and Communication in the Presidential Elections of the Gambia.
The 25 youth taking part in the reviewing are 18 from the Inter-Party Committee, 6 from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and one (1) from the National Youth Council.
“Politically motivated violence has been a recurring future of elections in The Gambia. So far, the 2021 election is seemingly following a similar path. The centre of these challenges is its significant youth population with 60% of the population under the age of 25 years with youth unemployment at 38%. This has increased their vulnerability to political exploitation and election related violence in an already fragmented society with growing ethnic divisions and political party disputes,’’ said Salama Njie, National Coordinator of WANEP, while delivering her welcoming remarks.
She explained that this year’s election is also considered as a key test of the unfolding agenda of reforming every sector of the country, not least of which the security sector, the judiciary and transitional justice mechanisms, the economy and enhancing inclusive participation of women and youth in governance processes.
The outcomes of the reform agenda, according to madam Njie, would set the momentum for future democratic processes. However, she added in approaching the election, there are controversies around the revised Constitution and other reforms processes, deepening ethnic and political divides.
“Even within political parties, young people feel compelled to subdue themselves to financially affluent leaders in order to find ways to succeed,’’ she stated.
Madam Njie explained that despite these instability generating forces, actors from all sectors and regions have been working for peace and stability. She said it is imperative to develop and facilitate engagement platforms and strategies that enhance the peace building commitment of youths towards peaceful elections and political transitions in The Gambia.
“Developing Code of Conduct for Youth Leaders, Media Practitioners and Peace Messages for the 2021 General Elections of The Gambia is indeed apt, considering the fact that we are nearing what is being considered to be a highly contested general elections,” remarked Musa Mbye, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Youth and Sport Ministry.
Mbye said it is much needed for the key actors, such as youth leaders and media, especially to be engaged and empowered so that comprehensive guiding principles can be developed and thus guide their actions. He said increasing youth participation across the board in governance and peace building is sine qua non in achieving holistic development. He said it is only through youth active participation at different levels of decision-making that can transform agendas so that the needs and interest of the majority of the population can be reflected and fully addressed.
According to him, initiatives like this will ensure inclusive peace building and conflict prevention mechanisms, saying the engagement is not only important but very appropriate at this point in The Gambia’s history. Mbye said the best way as a country is to remain peaceful during and after the election and “set ourselves” on the path to meaningful development.
“The Code of Conduct will no doubt guide how the youth population participates politically, while respecting divergence and upholding the principles of democracy and acceleration of development,’’ he said.