A Glance at Local Governance

A Glance at Local Governance

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Governance constitues mechanisms, processes and institutions through which collective decisions are made and implemented. These enable citizens, groups and communities to pursue their visions, articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.

Representation or participation increases the role of citizens in choosing their leaders and telling them what to do, hence all men and women have a voice and the right to be involved in the decision making process either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their interests.

As early as the transition period, the AFPRC/APRC government in its rectification programme established institutions to uphold the ethics of good governance and democratisation process. The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, each empowered in its own rights to man the affairs of the nation.

Decentralisation or the devolution or transfer of power, authority, responsibility and resources from the central to local level was not feasible until after 1994, when the APRC government took a major role in strengthening the capacity of local governors  in the area of policy formulation, resource management and service delivery and build the capacity of their communities for resource mobilisation, community planning and general policy awareness geared towards the attainment of sustainable economic and human development.

The 1997 Constitution of The Gambia provides for local government administration based on a system of democratically elected councils with a high degree of local autonomy, and the principle of devolution and decentralisation of government functions and powers to the people at appropriate levels of control to facilitate democratic governance.

Taking cue from this constitutional provision, The Gambia has incorporated the Vision 2020; a development blueprint which advocates for government “to encourage participatory governance and balanced development, government shall pursue an intensive political and institutional decentralisation process. This will contribute to poverty alleviation and diffuse the different socio-economic tensions that spring out of rapid population growth, rural urban drift, employment and regional disparities in economic development.”

Established for the first time in the history of The Gambia during the Second Republic, the Independent Electoral Commission manages, regulates and conducts all elections in a free, fair and transparent manner. During election campaigns, the IEC allocates to all parties, including the ruling party, equal air time on the national radio and television. The IEC also supervises public meetings in respect of the location and time to prevent confrontation. The election age was also reduced from 21 to 18.

The Office of the Ombudsman is another independent body where parties as well as individuals can go to and seek for redress, irrespective of their party affiliations, religious background or status. The Office of the Ombudsman can litigate between employers and employees in public institutions, in the event of disagreements over dismissals and other related issues.

The National Council for Civic Education has the responsibility of educating the entire Gambian populace on their civic duties and rights.

Despite the existence of an opposition critical of Jammeh’s government, the atmosphere of tolerance has always prevailed in The Gambia. This has been demonstrated in a number of times as can be alluded to by the hosting of events that bring together leaders of the opposing parties together.

For the education sector, several schools (lower, upper and senior) have been built throughout the country; a conducive environment is also created for private sector participation. This has really transformed the Gambia’s governance system.

by Saffiatou Colley