Source: | Richard Fiebor, Ghana

The National Youth Parliament (NYP) of The Gambia is embarking on an implementation project on peace building in rural communities across the country to foster national unity.

The project, which is funded by the United Nations Population Fund [formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities- UNFPA] through the United Nations Peace Building Fund,  seeks to strengthen the ongoing transitional justice process and to promote the involvement of women and young people in the peace building process.

Again, the Fund is geared towards supporting and strengthening the National Youth Parliament of the Gambia to better serve the interest of young people.

Between 11th and 15th June, 2019 some 35 members of the NYP from all the seven regions of the country including the North Bank Region, Central River Region, Lower River Region, Upper River Region, Banjul, Kanifing Municipality and West Coast Region converged at Kerewan and were trained on the mandates of the NYP; Good Governance at the Organizational Level and beyond, Communication, Advocacy and Social Media to support peace building among young people for a healthy coexistence within society.

They were also trained to on how to better communicate their impact as well as use best practices at the regional level to better support the national office in achieving the goals of the youth parliament.

In December 2016, former President Yahya Jammeh lost the General Elections to businessman, Adama Barrow, but then he refused to step down.

An armed intervention threat by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to remove Jammeh by force caused him to finally concede and left the country for Equatorial Guinea to seek asylum, news reports indicated.

However, there is incredible support for Jammeh in Foni Kansala, where Jammeh’s Jola ethnic group members reside with the majority Mandinkas. Violence has often broken between these two groups ever since Jammeh was ousted.

The new government led by President Adama Barrow said they were going to seek justice for all the victims of brutalities in the erstwhile Jammeh regime, change the constitution and improve some of the things that happened in the past as a result of institutional failure.

In a bid to make this vision come to light, the UNFPA has released funds to empower the National Youth Parliament to take their activities to the rural areas to create awareness on political diversity, capacity building for other members of the youth parliament and community sensitization.

Bakary Sonko doing a presentation during one of the outreach programmes in rural Gambia

The Programme Officer of the National Youth Parliament, Mr. Bakary Sonko, in an interview with from Banjul said “The project or initiative doesn’t seek to create employment but we create awareness on the need for young people to accept diversity which is key in the journey toward a peaceful society; we organize trainings and give them the requisite leadership skills they need to also share the knowledge within their various communities.”

Mr. Bakary Sonko, who is also a YALI alumnus of Cohort 13 at the Accra RLC added that “Since those in the rural areas suffered from the backdrop of low education and most of them are used by politicians to create violence…we train them on political pluralism, diversity and the need for them to accept each other beyond party lines and see each other as Gambians and not as one from a particular tribe or party.”

The Gambia is a small country in West Africa with a population of about 1,857,181. Banjul is the capital and the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama. In 1965, the Gambia gained independence from the British under the leadership of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. In 1994, Yahya Jammeh seized power from Dawda Jawara in a bloodless coup and ruled until he lost power to Adamah Barrow in the December 2016 general elections.

The Gambia’s economy is dominated by farming, fishing and tourism.

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