The National Youth Conference and Festival has been organised by the National Youth Council of The Gambia. It’s held every two years and this years theme is around tackling drugs and corruption. The President himself, his Excellency Prof al-Hajj Yahya Jameh has taken a personal initiative to highlight the dangers of these two ‘menaces’. The message is simple: “a definitive no to drugs and corruption.” The Gambia doesn’t have a major problem with illegal drug trafficking compared to other African states. In fact, The Gambia is one of the most stable nations with crime at very low levels. However, recently there have been seizures of smuggled cocaine and heroin shipments hence the fear that drug smugglers could be targeting the nation and the problem could take root.
Throughout the conference opening ceremony, various ministers and distinguished Govt officials highlighted the dangers of drug use, drug dealing and also its link with corruption. The Vice President herself was in attendance and she officially opened the conference. She discussed her Governments approach to the issue of drugs would be one of “zero tolerance” and she highlighted some of the means of tackling the issue would be through:
* Positive peer influence
* Counselling and reintegration of users
* Role models for young people
* The creation of jobs
The Aasha team met with the Vice President and exchanged some words about their experience of the drug abuse and dealing from the work that they carry out in East London. The Vice president mentioned that she has travelled to the UK and she knows of some of the problems faced by youth in inner city areas. She welcomed the Aasha team and encouraged them to share good practice with partners in The Gambia.
Project Manager, Muhammad Rabbani: “The Gambian people have a great opportunity to learn from other communities that have seen and experienced the destructive effects of drugs. Thankfully, the problem is only an emerging one at the moment here in Gambia so by taking the right steps, Government agencies and NGO’s can prevent drugs from becoming an issue and destroying society.”