NAYCONF 2022 Closing: West Coast Boycotts and URR Protests

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Team URR Protesting at the closing event

By: Foday Manneh

The official closing of the National Youth Conference and Festivals (NAYCONF) 2022 in Banjul was graced with a bittersweet ending as West Coast, and Upper River Region delegates boycotted and protested respectively against the event.

The closing was joyous to some as they collected their awards and trophies, but many others left unsatisfied and concerned over what some perceive as “unfair treatment” at the NAYCONF 2022.

Delegates from the West Coast Region unanimously boycotted the closing event despite emerging as overall winners in some competitions. At the same time, those from URR showed up to the event in a protest.

The URR team held posters while entering the venue with messages — strongly condemning the result of some of the competitions, such as the drama and poetry events.

“We believe we are the winners, and we came protesting. Many people confessed that URR won the drama competition because of the starling performance we pulled out,” protest leader, Muhammed Kargbo, said.

“We want them to decentralize everything when it comes to NAYCONF. We want judges to come from all regions,” he added. “In our case, we understand that one of the judges in the drama was from Banjul, and that’s not fair.”

One of the protest messages displayed by the young regional representatives reads, “Be fair to all regions. Banjul is not the only region. We are doing this in peace.”

“It is evident to everyone that URR won the drama and poetry competitions. Therefore, justice must prevail,” another message reads.

The National Youth Council of The Gambia (NYC), who commended their performance via social media on Facebook, gave youth reps from URR more reason to express their displeasure.

“The NYC invited us to perform the same drama at the closing event, but we rejected and said no. So how can they commend us for a spectacular performance and deny us the trophy we deserved?” Kargbo asked.

Team URR displaying their protest placards

The protest happened when the Minister of Youth and Sports, who doubles as the Chairman of the National Organizing Committee of the NAYCONF, Bakary Badjie, was making his closing statement. Instead, he reacted to the protest.

“Respected, URR, you are welcome. We recognize your protest. It is part of democracy. We will note all the things you have written. We will read them and try to take action,” the Minister promised.

Minister of Youth and Sports, B. Badjie

The biannual event gathered over 2000 youths from across the country and beyond and was meant to share experiences and discuss issues affecting young people and growth.

Significant highlights of the week-long event include sports competitions, cultural activities, academic competitions, creative arts, and entrepreneurship, among others.

The 2022 NAYCONF ended on Thursday, December 22, 2022, with the hosts Banjul leading the trophy win alongside Kanifing Municipality and North Bank Region, respectively.

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