Saturday, October 15, 2011

NRP’s Hamat Bah perplexed by media reportage on ‘opposition alliance’

Hamat Bah, NRP Leader not happy with reportage
  •  WOJAG President says Governments must promote and protect gender needs  
  • Gambian Editor urges government to review repressive media laws 
  • GPDP’s Henry Gomez unhappy with ‘short campaign’ 
  • Gambia: TB remain a major public health concern 
  • RLG Communications to inject $2M in mobile repair project 
  • Gambia remain committed to ECOWAS ‘single currency’   
  • Gambia College slam for violating Act of Parliament  
  • Teachers’ needs should be given priority in national education planning 
  • Plus More...


Sarjo Camara Singhateh, WOJAG President (Pix: dailynews)
 WOJAG President says Governments must promote and protect gender needs
The President of the Women Journalists Association of The Gambia (WOJAG), Mrs Sarjo Camara-Singhateh has stressed that governments across the world must be seen to be promoting and protecting the practical and strategic gender needs.
“It is our responsibility as gender activists to make sure that governments across the world are truly seen to promote and protect both practical and strategic gender needs,” she said during a three-day training for Gambia journalists on “Gender”, September 26-29, 2011.     
The training, intended to strengthen the capacity of journalists on gender reportage and misconceptions, was organised by WOJAG, in collaboration with the Network of Human Rights Journalists of The Gambia (NHRJ) and Court Reporters. It was funded by the Banjul-based African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS).
Gender and its related issues should be given a top priority in our news media; we must make sure that all stereotypes are addressed clearly. We must promote equality in the eyes of the law and in our social structure, she charged. 
She said gender advocacy is a matter of fostering mutual understanding between the men and women folk and hence, promoting this cause is everybody’s business. She question the level of networking between civil society and the media dealing with human rights; the how much scrutiny of government policies and actions, the adequacies or implementation (or the lack) of legal provisions, and the exposure of violations of women’s rights is being reported by the media.
She challenged women journalists to step up their work and be in the vanguard of educating, informing and advocating for women rights and issues affecting them in society.
The President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Bai Emil Touray said the training offers the journalists the opportunity to better understand gender context and as well dispel the gender misconceptions in society.
He said many a times the portrayal of women undermines various policies and programmes, thus the media has a critical role to play in the socio-economic development of the country, of which women cannot be overlooked. 
“We hope you will be sufficiently trained to follow-up critical gender issues in our society. It does not stop there, you have a duty to better explain to the public the significance of gender,” the executive director of ACDHRS, Hannah Foster told journalists. She noted that the advocacy for gender equality and equity in the media and society could be realized provided that both men and women work together towards achieving it.
She also noted in appreciation the increasing numbers of women joining the journalism profession, compared to the numbers 20 years ago when less than it was 10 practicing female journalists in the country.
She noted various international legal instruments guaranteeing the rights of women, with specific mention of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Modou S. Joof of our newsroom contributed to this story.



Hamat Bah, NRP Leader frowns at journalists
NRP’s Hamat Bah perplexed by media reportage on ‘opposition alliance’

The leader of the opposition party, the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) said he received with shock the media’s portrayal of the opposition as failures in the absence of a one-party led alliance.
Numerous media reports in recent days have followed with specific interest the proposed “Opposition alliance” to run against the incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh, who heads the Alliance Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC).  The clandestine meeting which began last month for a proposed alliance for the November 24 polls, has since been reported to have failed sooner than expected. With Mr Bah claiming publicly that he will not join a United Democratic Party (UDP) led alliance.
On Tuesday, Mr Bah told journalists shortly after the October 4, 2011 announcement of the final voter list at the Election House in Kanifing that: “Am surprised that Gambian journalists are bent on hammering the issue of an alliance all the time as if when there is no alliance there cannot be a victory for the opposition.”
 “I think it is important for journalists to know that even without an alliance the APRC can be defeated and you are those affecting our programmes, you have to be positive,” Mr Bah who agreed to a UDP-led alliance in 2006 told journalists.
The tough-talking politician said he is perplexed that Gambians are more concerned with the issue of an all-opposition-parties-alliance, citing the recent victory for a Zambian opposition leader over the incumbent Rupiah Banda.
He noted that discussions are ongoing regarding the interest groups; however, he reiterated that this will not stop his NRP party from preparing its programmes and getting engaged in the forthcoming presidential election.
“We are getting ready whatever happens, we are working as much as possible to sensitise Gambians about our programmes and even there is an agreement for an alliance, no problem,” he said.
Mr Bah heads what is apparently the 3rd largest political party in the country and have witnessed three elections where President keep winning.  Nonetheless, he claims “despite three elections without defeat, this time the opposition can defeat the APRC 100 percent because Gambians are ready for change and they want to do it quietly without noise.”
“The youths of this country will vote against the APRC and Gambians who are enlightened and know what is happening will vote against the APRC,” he said. Modou S. Joof of our newsroom contributed to this story.




GPDP’s Henry Gomez unhappy with ‘short campaign’

With less than 14 days given to political parties in The Gambia to campaign for votes in the forthcoming presidential election by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the leader of the opposition party, Gambia People for Democratic Party (GPDP), Mr Henry Gomez has raised eyebrows.
The IEC did give four weeks campaign period to political parties in the last (2006) presidential election, why only eleven days this year, he asked. “There must be something behind it,” he said, pointing accusing finders to the IEC as being biased. “I have always asked myself, is the IEC independent,” he said.
Mr Gomez, who was speaking to The Voice shortly after the October 4, 2011 announcement of the final voter list at the Election House in Kanifing, heads what could be the smallest political party in The Gambia and was disqualified from running for the presidency in 2006 by the IEC on grounds that he fall short of fulfilling certain constitutional requirements.
“The eleven-day campaign period does not favor us, but they put it in our nose because when they were discussing we were not invited. Despite complaints about it, the IEC said it cannot change the date, so we cannot do anything,” he lamented.
He said the GPDP’s aims and objective are one and the same to those of other opposition parties, that is, effecting a change of administration through the ballot box. This is the wish of all Gambians, he said.
“Three terms of office is enough for President Jammeh, everyone in the country is crying for change and if could happen in Cape Verde or Zambia, why not in Gambia. The situation in the country is so difficult. We are all facing troubles our daily lives,” he said.
“People are living without electricity. They are saying girls’ education is free while mothers are paying school fees for their daughters.”
He also lamented that food prices are soaring, thus giving families difficult times to acquire enough food.
Last month opposition parties in the country began a clandestine meeting for a proposed alliance for the November 24 polls, and Mr Gomez said the GPDP supports the aim of convention.  “Let’s give Gambians the chance to choose their own leader,” he said.
A similar move by the opposition born the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD), but people said “greed and self-interest” was the hallmark of the split shortly before the 2006 elections.
However, the GDPD leader said “We are still negotiating. There is nothing impossible and at present there is nothing like a majority party should lead. We are calling for change.”
He said a victory for the opposition cannot be jeopardized and its will not be compromised. “We believe in peace and harmony, days have gone when incumbents’ loss an election and say “am not going”, it is a matter of must, if you loose you have to go.” Modou S. Joof of our newsroom contributed to this story.



 Gambia: TB remain a major public health concern 
The monitoring and evaluation (M&E) officer, National Leprosy and Tuberculosis Control Programme (NLTP), under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Mr. Dawda Sowe has admitted the tuberculosis disease continues to be a major public health concern in the country.
To justify this, he quoted national statistics stating that an annual estimate of all forms of tuberculosis (TB) burden revealed 4,415 cases from 2004 to 2010, with a TB incidence of 257 per 100, 000 of the population. He lamented that the case detection rate for TB has increased from 64 percent in 2004 to 71 percent in 2010.
Presenting a paper during a two-day “capacity building and awareness creation programme” for “40 Gambia health journalists (AOHJ)” at the office of the national nutrition agency in Bakau, Mr. Sowe
He said TB has become a neglected disease over the years and journalists should continue to disseminate the rightful information to the people of The Gambia for them to better understand the disease and be able to take precautions.
However, he said regardless of the challenges faced by the country, not all is chilly as Gambia have achieved marked improvement following the establishment of the NLTP in 1984, nine years before the World Health Organisation (WHO) launch a global campaign against the disease in 1993.
“The NLTP was able to offer TB services to 31 diagnostic centres countrywide with the aim of reducing transmission, morbidity and mortality,” Mr Sowe said. “Our aim is also to increase access to TB diagnostic and treatment centres to meet 73 percent of the population.” 
The new President of AOHJ-The Gambia, Fatou Touray commended the NLTP for what she called a “long fruitful relationship” that exists between the two bodies.
She charged the participants to be more vibrant in disseminating information on TB and health related diseases to the public. This, she said is a contribution to the socio-economic wellbeing of the people of Gambia.

 
Graduants (Pix: The Point)
RLG Communications to inject $2M in mobile repair project
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghanaian-owned rlg Communications Mr Roland Agambire has revealed that his company will inject $2 million in the second phase of “Pilot mobile phone repair project” of which 70 Gambian youths have benefitted.
Part of the money will go into sponsoring similar upcoming training courses for the youths in Brikama (West Coast Region) and Basse (Upper River Region) next year, to be funded by rlg communications.
Speaking to journalists shortly after a graduation ceremony for the 70 trainees who completed the first phase of the project on September 30, 2011, the head of rlg, a company engaged in the production of communication equipment such as mobiles, handset, electric note books, tablets, laptops, LED lights and LCD TV monitors, said his company will establish a subsidiary in The Gambia next year, from which the 70 graduates would gain employment.
He also noted that rlg also offers capacity building programmes designed to help governments develops human capital and create sustainable employment for their citizens; such programmes are currently ongoing in Ghana, The Gambia and Nigeria.
Mr Agambire also revealed that plans are in advance to set up an rlg communications subsidiary in the Gambia by 2012.
The GAMJOBS-funded Mobile Phone Training Programme, hosted by Unique Solution, a communications provider, was carried out in partnership with rlg Communications, Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Youth Council and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Launched seven months ago, the project is intended to equip unemployed Gambian youths with specialised employable skills in mobile phone repairs and entrepreneurial skills that will make them socially responsible, financially independent and offer them the needed future job security. “These important attributes have indeed been identified as realistic prerequisites for national growth and socio-economic development of the Gambia.”
The CEO Unique Solutions, Mr Papa Yusupha Njie said his company does not only provide jobs for the youths but also trains them to be self-reliant.
He said the graduates of the rlg Institute of Technology have chosen to become part of history making by carving a future for themselves in the area of technology and entrepreneurship.
He noted that while the Government of The Gambia is committed to fund GAMJOBS, the Government of Spain has also agreed to fund part of the second phase of the project.
The UNDP Resident Representative, Madam Chinwe Dike, whose statement was read on her behalf, noted that improving conscience means improving the lives of youths and as well as addressing unemployment.
She quoted UN figures to have projected up to 160 million people in the world being unemployed, of which 40 percent are youths.
For his part, the Minister of Youths and Sports, Sheriff Gomez, said his ministry is not only empowering youths but also encouraging them to take up employable skills. 
However, he stressed that youths should be determined and be ready to face the challenges that they’ll be faced with in life. 



Gambia remain committed to ECOWAS ‘single currency’ 
The Government of The Gambia (GoTG ) on Wednesday reiterated that it is still committed towards the discussion and formulation of an Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) single currency.
The proposal for a sub-regional currency, the Eco, was adopted by member states of the ECOWAS Convergence Council in May 2009, but the implementation process have seen some countries dragging behind while others striving for it.
Speaking at a one-day sensitization forum on ECOWAS National Coordinating Committee (NCC) and Secretariat in The Gambia, the deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Isatou Taal, noted that Gambia’s commitment towards the cause of a “single sub-regional currency” remains the same. 
However, she noted that the implementation of multilateral surveillance is essential to the evaluation of the economic performance of ECOWAS Members states towards the implementation of the roadmap for the creation of the single currency.
She said the main objective of the ECOWAS NCC Secretariat, manned by a macroeconomic and a bilingual secretary is to improve the economic supervision of the Member States by reinforcing good public finance management and ensuring the creation of a single currency.
According to her, ECOWAS NCC and the national sensitization programme reflects the strong and continued commitment of the GoTG to the goals and objectives of the ECOWAS regional integration process, especially in the concretization of efforts to harmonize economic policies within the framework and to accelerate the creation of ECOWAS monetary zone.
Within the Framework of the 9th European Development Fund (EDF) aimed at enhancing  the capacity of the ECOWAS Commission and improve upon the macroeconomic policy supervision of ECOWAS Member States; the 9th EDF embarked upon the recruitment of two macroeconomic consultants to support the implementation of the programme on multilateral surveillance.
For his part, a Senior Economist at the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Mr Yahya Samateh, echoed similar sentiments, citing that the enhancement of the harmonization of the economic policies are also intended to create markets and an ECOWAS of People.



Gambian Editor urges government to review repressive media laws
Baboucarr Senghore, Editor-in-Chief of The Point Newspaper in Gambia has called on the government to encourage freedom of expression, open up access to information sources, review unfavorable media laws, and encourage training researcher course.
This, he said would avoid the intimidation, harassment and torture of Gambia journalists.
Presenting a paper on the “Role of Editors on Covering and Reporting Elections” during a four-day training on “Election Reporting” organised by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ-The Gambia) in collaboration with the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the Foundation for Legal Aid, Research and Empowerment (FLARE), Mr Senghore noted that the media serve as a watchdog, holding government officials accountable.
The Gambia media has been far from free for many years; however, he noted that “a free press is a prerequisite for social and economic change in any society.”
“Elections are the cornerstone of any democracy, and the media has a vital role in informing the public about what the politicians are promising, in telling the politicians what ordinary people want, or do not want and ensuring that the polls are free and fair,” he said. “This is particularly important in countries lacking a solid background of democratic rule.”
He said the role of journalists in election reporting includes being non-partisan, and as well as suppressing their (journalists) political views in order to allow the public to make up their minds solely on the basis of what various candidates are offering.
With corrupt practices eating into the very fabrics of all aspects of the African society, Mr Senghore stressed that this social vice (corruption), remain one of the major problems in election reporting across the continent. He said “corruption is at the heart of poor election reporting and a good number of journalists have fallen victim to this vice.”
“As Editors, we have a role to play in avoiding such problems to put strategic plan that will be essential to effective election coverage. One should always check with the electoral commission all the details of the coming poll, registration date, start and close of the campaign period, the specific day of the election, and how the polling will be organised, among others.”
He also noted that editors should study the election rules, the voting system, the electoral laws, poll watching, and the use of public opinion surveys, political advertising regulations and access to state media.
According to him, editors should explain their reporting rules to their audience, how they will to cover the campaign and why. Election coverage is the political desk’s golden hour but should not be its exclusive preserve.
“Elections bring politicians closer to media practitioners and, as a result the image of the profession is profoundly tarnished with some surmountable problems recorded,” he argued, before citing ethics as the “golden rule” for journalists and the success story and the kick-starter of the practice.
He said this is a time when the canons of responsible journalism are put in motion and it is for this reason that professional ethics should be viewed and reviewed properly, more particularly as it stands as the formidable passageway from the common practice of journalists to their being regarded as the watchdogs of the society.

In his view, the challenge of objectivity, impartiality and balance in journalism is faced daily by journalists, but there is no better test of professionalism than that faced in heat and pressure of a bitterly fought election, hence the need for such training of Gambian journalists in election reporting procedures.
Basically, journalism is an interface between the government and the people, so journalists are expected to be scrupulous enough to provide citizens with access to all facts, opinions and ideas being canvassed in the election campaign.
The media as an institution is accountable to the public whose right to know cannot be taken for granted, and based on this backdrop, Mr Senghore stressed that the people need to be well-informed about all issues at stake in order to decide for themselves.
He said it is “unethical for journalist to canvass particularly for political position.”
“Those who wish to do so would be wise to quit the profession and run for an elected office. A partisan journalist can be dangerous to society, as he or she can inflame tempers by publishing partisan reports.”
The Editor of the privately-owned newspaper, The Point, advised journalists to learn to conceal their political affiliation in the build-up to the November 24 presidential election in The Gambia, saying “all political parties must be given equal coverage in both the private and public media.”
He added: “Selective coverage is damaging to the spirit of good journalism and democracy.”
Though he said his newspaper is giving equal opportunities to all political parties in the country with objectivity, impartiality and professionalism, Mr Senghore said “we want a government that promotes the common good and can move The Gambia forward on the path of continued peace, progress and prosperity within the framework of a just and open society.”
“It is pertinent to emphasize that journalists should hold their own against being seduced materially by politicians on the campaign trail and those who allow themselves to be lured into accepting gifts of money and other valuables brings the entire profession into disrepute,” he said. “The same applies to the politicians, they should allow journalist to carry on with their job without enticing them with goodies, some politician seem to capitalise on the fact that journalists in our part of the world are poorly paid, therefore, dangle some irresistible carrots before them.”
He warns that both the giver and the receiver of a bribe are equally in the wrong, noting that the real test of the success of the training will be how well journalists acquit themselves on the campaign trail.
He further pointed out that the success or failure of a reporter in election reporting is largely dependent on some key indicators, which among others, include the “state of mind of the journalist, lack of access to sources of information, lack of effective communication, poor wages of journalists, editorial line of the media house, cosmetic training in the media profession, favoritism, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, intimidation, threat and victimization.”

 
Gambia College slam for violating Act of Parliament
For more than a year, The Gambia College, one of the country’s elite institutions has been operation without a Principal, following the departure of the former in early 2010, thus, inviting criticism from Members of the Public Account/Public Enterprise Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly of The Gambia for violating the laws.
The Minority Leader and Member for Kiang West Hon. Momodou L.K Sanneh and the Member for Basse, Hon. Momodou Sellu Bah, both blamed the authorities responsible for falling short of appointing a principal, prompting a “longer than necessary” oversee of the institution by the Vice Councilor of the University of The Gambia (UTG), Prof. Muhammadou Kah.
The parliamentarians’ stance on Monday, October 3, came during the first sitting of the PAC/PEC this year, as an oversight institution responsible for securitizing public institutions.
The lack of a principal at the College is a violation of the Act of Parliament which established the College and should be urgently looked into, Hon. Sanneh said. “This Act should not be violated by an individual or group of people in the pretext of national development,” he warns.
“The College needs to have a principal and unless the Act which establishes it is repealed, the College management is bound to appear before the PAC/PEC Committees for security as a separate institution from the UTG.”
He charged that the authorities should look into the issue and appoint a principal immediately.


Teachers’ needs should be given priority in national education planning
The acting President of the Gambia Teachers Union (GTU), Mr Lamin Darboe called for their  academic freedom, conditions of work, employment security; improvement of pedagogical skill, upgraded academic credentials and promotion of access to appropriate training be respected and given priority in national education planning.
“Teachers need and merit support of the whole society. Teachers serve the society in a very special way; they essentially contribute to building a more tolerant and friendly world based on mutual respect,” he said during this year’s “World Teachers Day, October 8, celebrated in collaboration with Actionaid-The Gambia, QCell and Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education at a local hotel in Kololi. “The right to education is a fundamental human right guaranteed to all people as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All states should ensure that the preparation and employment of teachers is free from any form of discrimination on grounds of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, or economic condition.”
He said the theme “Teachers and Gender Equality” recognises the important role of teachers in the promotion of gender equality and guaranteeing equal access to opportunities and resources with a view to achieving gender equality.
He added that the central role played by teachers in the process of education is widely recognized, citing that awareness of values relating to tolerance of diversity, environment, peace, health, love for learning, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are indispensable to an individual’s development and progress of society. 
Mr Jatta challenge member states of the UN to undertake an evaluation of the access to education for everyone and the provision of appropriate conditions for teachers remuneration outlined in the UNESCO/ILO recommendations of October 1966 and the recommendations concerning the status of higher-education teaching personnel adopted on 11th November, 1997. 
 “Discrimination against women and girl including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities, and harmful traditional practices remains the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality,” the GTU General Secretary, Mrs. Antoinette Corr-Jack said. “The time is right to synergize our efforts, generate that extra push, and include the excluded so that we can ensure gender equality in education for our future generations.”
She stressed that leveling the playing field between men and boys, women and girls should start from ensuring that all children have equal opportunities to develop their talents during the most important phase of their life.
She said “since women constitute the majority of the primary teaching workforce, and are often disproportionately affected by these issues, the potential impact is compounded. Gender equality must therefore be central to the solutions.”
For her part, Fatoumatta Jarju-Khan, Chairperson GTU Women’s Wing, said despite women forming more than half of the world’s population, and the teaching profession being made up largely of them, inequality in all spheres of life remains an issue.
Though measures to ensure equality are enshrined in the policies and constitution of many states, for millions of female teachers, the goals remain unfulfilled-commitments, she laments. “Female teachers have fallen victims of sexual exploitation, marginalization and sexual harassment all of which can result to poor-performance in their work and negation of out posting,” Mrs Jarju-Khan said. 


76 Zonlight Lamps project for Kandunku Village

Comafrique Intelizon’s initiative to light up villages, supported by the Rotary Club of India, recently launched a 76 Zonlight lamps project at Kandunku village in Foni Bantang Karanai District, West Coast Region of The Gambia.
Speaking at the handingover ceremony, the CEO Comafrique and founder of Comafrique intelizon initiative to light up villages, Mr Ram Mohan said the initiative which began in 2009 is intended to boost the needs of rural Gambians and his company whose activities are mainly in rural areas.
“We thought as a company we should also do our quarter in the development of the rural people as the president is always talking about rural development,” he said.  “Light is very important in live, it can give students the ability to work and study at night to improve their performances in school, but the sustainability of the project depends on the villagers.” 
He also called on all businessmen and women to make efforts to contribute to the development of the rural people in The Gambia.
The Project Coordinator, Mr. Nfamara Dampha, said the villagers are required to pay D1 every day for their contribution toward the sustainability of the project, a charge which is more than affordable.
He noted that company only guarantees the running of the project for a year and the beneficiaries will take charge of it all. He advice the villagers to cooperate with the committee members and pay their contributions on time, while noting the cost of battery replacement for the lamps is low.


  • Courtesy of The Voice Newspaper, Banjul The Gambia


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