By Cherno Omar Bobb
Following the intensive civic and voter education sensitizations held in 40 communities across Upper River Region, the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) has resumed the second and third phases of the Nationwide Civic and Voter Education Campaign planned to be implemented in Central River, North Bank, Lower River and West Coast Regions.
Obligated by their mandate and desire to deliver effective and efficient civic education to all citizens across the length and breadth of The Gambia in this electioneering period, to limit voter apathy as much as possible and to ensure a violence-free election, no community is far and inaccessible to NCCE’s committed and dedicated staff embarking on this campaign.
Other means such as radio programmes are also employed as part of the campaign in order to spread the messages out to communities that the NCCE staff cannot visit and reiterate them to others visited.
With Election Day less than 20 days away, Gambians are preparing for the December 4th polls. On Thursday, two teams of NCCE staff started these phases of the aforementioned campaign with outreaches in CRR and NBR. The NCCE teams are deployed in CRR North and South simultaneously to conduct face-to-face community voter education and sensitization meetings.
Ansumana Ceesay NCCE’s Senior Program Officer, outlined the objectives of the sensitisation and said that the upcoming December 4th election is just more than electing a president but also a litmus test to Gambia’s growing democracy. Therefore, he said the sensitization is geared towards promoting citizen political consciousness, culture of political tolerance, peace and security throughout the electoral process as well as increase public awareness about civic and political rights.
The sensitization meetings are also aimed to encourage the public for massive participation and high voter turnout in the forthcoming December poll. He urged citizens to be law abiding and promote peace.
Mr Ceesay further reminded citizens that political campaigns are more that wearing political T-shirts, sitting on vehicle rooftops, clapping and dancing to any promise being made by politicians, among other political participations.
Ceesay said political campaigns are very essential in any competitive free and fair elections. “As stated in section 85 to 96 of the Elections Act, political campaigns are an organised effort which seeks to provide information about political parties, candidates and their policies and programmes in an attempt to influence the decision of the electorate,” he stated, saying the process is critical in helping voters make an informed choice among the contesting candidates and parties on Election Day.
He encouraged citizens to attend campaign rallies of all the politicians who came to their areas or endeavor to read and listen to the policies and programmes of those parties or candidates, as that will enable them to make informed choices on the 4th December polls.
“In the same way, citizens, especially community leaders are advised to desist from stopping or blocking politicians from holding rallies or meetings in their communities,” he also said.
The voter education campaign messages are focusing on the principles of democracy, importance of voting and holding elections, constitutional guarantee for political rights, campaign ethics, and code of conduct for election. Political tolerance and its importance are the main topics discuss during the sensitization meetings. These messages are geared towards empowering the citizens with requisite knowledge for active participation in the upcoming presidential elections.
The sensitization programme, which is supported and funded by UNDP – The Gambia is in a form of face-to-face community sensitisation. These Second and Third phases of a nationwide whistle-stop sensitisation is expected to last for 20 days, covering 80 major communities in CRR, NBR, LRR & WCR regions.