The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently launched a five-year project, Promoting Rights and Justice Activity (PRJ) in The Gambia—co-implemented by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative and Freedom house. Over 100 participants from civil society, media, government officials and development partners attended the event held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre in Bijilo on May 27, 2022. The activity is geared toward improving the justice sector in the country, strengthening civil society and the media, and hopefully support The Gambia through its democratic transition.
The United States Ambassador to The Gambia, Honorable Sharon Cromer said that through the PRJ activity, USAID will bring together world-class experts including Gambians to help modernize the justice system of The Gambia.
Ambassador Cromer noted that the project will also train Gambian civil society organizations on how to use evidence-based advocacy to continue to safeguard the rights of the average citizen; and media groups to be able to report effectively and ethically, to foster the national conversation on democracy.
One of the justice sector institutions earmarked for support is the Judiciary of The Gambia.
The Chief Justice of The Gambia, Justice Hassan B. Jallow welcomed the project and looked forward to the results. “The Judiciary of The Gambia is strongly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and the delivery of quality justice and firmly welcomes the project in its objectives and its envisaged outcome.”
PRJ also aims to support the Ministry of Justice.
In his statement, the Minister of Information, Hon Lamin Queen Jammeh on behalf of the Minister of Justice, also welcomed the program. “It is the hope of the MOJ and the government of The Gambia that the Promoting Rights and Justice will help solidify and accelerate democratic transition in The Gambia by supporting the justice sector and civil society.”
The Gambia is emerging from two decades of dictatorship and is currently navigating a delicate transition with ambitious plans to restore rule of law, build strong institutions, adopt laws and practices to enhance good governance, inculcate a culture of human rights, and invest in its social and economic development to name just a few national priorities.
The minister said that years of authoritarian rule have left the Gambian justice sector under a difficult environment. “The sector is characterised by antiqued laws and procedures to effectively carry out its functions and deliver timely and fair justice.”
Engaged civil society and independent strong media is critical to holding public accountable in the delivery of public service.
For his part, the chairman of The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO), John Charles Njie hailed the timely launch of the project and looked forward to a smooth implementation.
After the lunch, a stakeholder dialogue was held to discuss the role of the media and other stakeholders on improving ethical journalism reporting. Panellists discussed on the role of the media council and the need for improving the quality of reporting across media outlets.
“The media as the fourth estate is the biggest actor for the realisation of justice and their reporting needs to be impartial. This event will help us a lot in knowing how to go about reporting on stories ethically,” Adama Jobe a participant said.
Muhammed Ndure, a lawyer and media ethics trainer, said the PRJ activity will help with capacity building and improve the delivery of justice.
Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.