The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office in the Gambia has urged political parties to avoid using Children at their rallies.
“Political rallies and gatherings in The Gambia have increased in recent weeks as part of the democratic space related to the upcoming presidential elections in December 2021. Numerous eyewitness reports, media coverage and independent photographs have illustrated that children are being mobilized as part of the cadre of party loyalists and supporters during political rallies. Whilst to date these rallies and gatherings have been generally safe and peaceful, the presence of children may be problematic due to their special condition and particular status (age, size, physical condition and maturity) which could make them more vulnerable and place their integrity at risk if these rallies and manifestations may turn unsafe or violent. Therefore, all measures need to be taken to avoid the presence of children in these events and ensure that whenever children are present their best interests are safeguarded and their safety, security and wellbeing are completely guaranteed and held paramount,” Gordon Jonathan Lewis UNICEF Representative to the Gambia, said in a statement.
Lewis feared children might be vulnerable to exploitation and other risks such reprisals from the State, opposition parties or from the community or their own families, among others,
for taking part in political rallies and such gatherings.
“Children are also more vulnerable to co-option and manipulation by adults under different pretences. For example, children in street situations or children from poor backgrounds may be promised incentives (monetary and non-monetary) to boost numbers in rallies and gatherings. Because of their age and limited maturity, children may end up being vulnerable to exploitation and unaware of the implications of joining such events. Taking part in political rallies and gatherings presents other risks for children, including considerable ones such as: being victims of reprisals from the State, opposition parties or from the community or their own families, and/or being unlawfully arrested, detained, ill-treated, tortured or killed (as has occurred in other countries),” the UNICEF representative to The Gambia said.
The UNICEF boss in The Gambia made these remarks at the national stakeholders’ forum in support of peaceful and credible elections in The Gambia, held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Centre on Tuesday.