Inter-party violence in the lead up to The Gambia’s April and May 2018 local elections resulted in the Gambian police temporarily banning all political activities in January 2018.
To quell potential future incidents of politically motivated violence, the International Republican Institute (IRI) supported The Gambia’s National Youth Council to lead the first ever inter-party youth dialogue in the capital, Banjul. The 150 young Gambians, who represented all registered political parties and the country’s seven regions, called for a violence-free electoral process and announced the establishment of a permanent national inter-party youth platform.
Robina Namusisi, IRI’s resident country director, advised the young participants involved with the national Inter-Party Youth Committee that success in their platform would require that decisions meet consensus before implementation. Ms. Namusisi suggested a clear and agreed upon memorandum of understanding that unambiguously binds all the member political parties.
Participants agreed to continue the dialogue on a periodic basis and issued a communique that:
- Condemned all acts of violence, including wanton destruction of property and the killing of innocent people, during political rallies, or any form of political gathering and call on all party leaders to condemn such violence when they occur in the strongest terms possible;
- Urged all youth, members, supporters and candidates of political parties to desist from engaging in any activity that could disrupt any political party’s campaign or elections;
- Underlined the importance of violent-free elections and the critical role of youth in safeguarding democratic processes including elections and election campaigns;
- Called on political parties to create peace ambassadors at both the regional and constituency level, responsible for ensuring peaceful co-existence and tolerance between political parties to further strengthen the Inter-Party Committee; and
- Affirmed participants’ resolve to continue to seek the cooperation of all in peace maintenance and conflict resolution in their common homeland of The Gambia.
At the end of the two-day conference, participants fervently asked IRI to replicate the dialogue at the regional level to ensure that the message of peaceful party cohesion could spread nationwide. With funding from the United States Embassy in Banjul, IRI promised to assist in establishing local branches of the inter-party platform.
A Call Answered
In collaboration with the National Youth Council and National Youth Parliament, IRI traveled into the depths of The Gambia to begin the inter-party youth dialogues in each region of the country this summer. While in the field, IRI brought together a total of 357 young Gambians from the seven regions to discuss the importance of unified youth within the political space, encourage youth political participation and promote political tolerance among political parties. Many participants thanked IRI on how timely these dialogues were and explained that they had deep misunderstandings of pluralism which they hoped to eradicate with their new knowledge.
A member of the People’s Progressive Party from Central River Region reminded his fellow Gambians that the country came together in 2016 to democratically remove 22-year dictator Yayah Jammeh from power. Since then though, the country has been thrown into political unrest and disunity, creating rivalries between political parties that is born out of political ignorance and tribal affiliations. The member spoke about the needed political unity to propel The Gambia forward, saying, “No one party can develop this country, but all the parties must come together.”
A notable success from two regional dialogues was that at the end of the sessions in the Lower River Region and Kanifing Municipality Council, participants decided to immediately elect members for the regions’ first-ever Inter-Party Youth Committee. The committee members represent all major political parties and hope to travel around the two regions to sensitize Gambians to inter-party relations. The Inter-Party Youth Committees will be a symbolic force of unity aimed at strengthening cooperation among youth and party members in the regions.
The Gambia continues to be an example to the African continent of a transitioning democratic nation, with future leaders that have taken impressive strides in ensuring the country’s prosperous and democratic future.