In fulfilment of its constitutional mandate of educating the Gambian citizenry on their civic rights, duties and responsibility, the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) recently embarked on a week-long of communities within the West Coast Region (WCR) on the Local Government Act (LGA).
The initiative is coming as the country prepares the ground for the 2013 Local Government Election. It sought to educate the populace on their constitutional rights in relation to the election given the fact that LGA has provided for local government elections to be held every four years.
The objective of the Act is to establish and regulate a decentralised local government system for The Gambia; to make provision for the functions, powers and duties of local authorities. Among the villages covered in the region were Kampasa, Khang Sambou, Khang Mamudou, Chewel, Junkel, and Sintet.
Speaking at various communities, the programme officer at the NCCE, Isatou Bittaye, harped on the importance of the citizens' civic rights. She told the locals that the institution is tasked and mandated by the constitution to sensitise the people on their civic rights, duties and responsibilities, as well as other issues that have to do with good governance and human rights.
Also part of their responsibilities, according to the programme officer, is to go out and meet the people at their respective communities or sometimes use the media to sensitise the people on their civic rights. To this end, she stressed that that it is duty bound on them to begin the sensitisation in earnest ahead of the election instead of sitting down and wait for the 11th hour to do so.
"This is the right time to meet the people as the Local Government Elections is as important as both the National Assembly and presidential election. We are out to sensitise them on the importance of the election, the role and functions of a councilor, and the criteria to use to select them," she explained.
She concluded by stressing that women should understand that their participation in politics is not politics at the surface level, but a qualitative and effective one; that women should make a good representation at decision making institutions. Bittaye then urged women to come out and contest in elections given that they constitute 55% of the electorate in the country.
The Civic Education supervisor, Ansumana Yabo, who addressed the locals in Kampasa village, explained that Section 193 (1) of the Constitution states that "The Local government administration in The Gambia shall be based on a system of democratically elected councils with a high degree of local autonomy".
He added that Section 214 (3) of the Constitution also makes it clear that "The State shall be guided by the principles of decentralisation and devolution of governmental functions and powers to the people at appropriate levels of control to facilitate democratic governance".
Meanwhile, the locals took turns at various meeting venues to applaud the NCCE for enhancing their civic rights knowledge, which they concurred will go a long way in enabling them make informed choices and decisions.