Changes

The last few months have been a whirlwind of travel for me and Aurora. We’ve visited family, returned to Halifax early, and have exchanged our shorts and bathing suits for winter coats and toques. But those aren’t the changes that I want to talk about - I want to talk a bit about the exciting recent political developments in The Gambia.

The December 2 election which saw the defeat of longtime president Yahya Jammeh and the ensuing precedent setting government transition was the direct result of tireless mobilizing both online and in the streets. For the first time ever, a coalition party was formed to combine organizing efforts - cementing support from several different groups. A strong youth led movement online helped to spread information and speak out about issues of accountability and civic engagement.

When Jammeh contested the election, one week after conceding it, the #gambiahasdecided movement kicked into higher gear, connecting locals and the Gambian diaspora to keep morale and momentum up, as well as fundraising to put up billboards and t-shirts for people to see their message. A wide variety of civil society groups wrote letters and demanded accountability and respect for the electoral process. And regional and global organizations stood firm in their support for the results, including following up with military intervention.

These are only a few of the forces that came together to ensure a relatively smooth government transition. The new coalition government has only been in power for a little over a month, but has already begun tackling their large and intimidating to-do list to help to restore trust and respect in the democratic process and to begin to rebuild the country after two decades of rule by one person. They have requested the patience of the Gambian people during this time, but have also been clear that citizens should feel safe to voice concerns and criticisms, and that those who have had to leave over the years should feel free to return home.

With all of these changes in such a short amount of time, it will be more important than ever for organizations like NSGA to continue their essential work in The Gambia. Teaching and mentoring the next generation of young leaders, in a country where the majority of the population is under twenty-five, will help to ensure that young people have the tools to be engaged, advocate for their communities, and lead healthy lives, while contributing to their vision for The Gambia’s future.

Krystal Lewis was working as a Media Intern with Nova Scotia Gambia Association in Gambia.