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Gov’t Blamed For Maintaining “Draconian Laws” In 1997 Constitution

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John Charles Njie, Chairman of TANGO

By Landing Ceesay

The Chairman of TANGO, John Charles Njie, has blamed the Barrow government for maintaining the “draconian laws” in the 1997 Constitution.

“A lot has happened and a lot more used to happen. Part of the challenges we have despite our successes is that we cannot have serious security sector reform, still operating under draconian laws that enabled dictatorship. It is a shame on us as Gambians, a shame on our country, a shame on the government that 6 years into a new democratic dispensation, the laws that enabled dictatorship are still in place; and we expect our security men and women in service to act differently. It cannot happen,” Mr. Njie said.

The TANGO Chairman stated that a lot of laws and bills have been tabled to the Parliament, but there are “draconian laws” in the Constitution.

While talking about the unconditional acts in the country under President Barrow’s reign, Mr. Njie said changing the ‘National Intelligence Agency (NIA)’ to ‘State Intelligence Service (SIS)’ is unconstitutional.

“Today, we have an unconstitutional State Intelligence Service (SIS), and we are forced to call them SIS. When their actual name constitutionally is still the NIA. What kind of a country is this? What you are teaching our children is lawlessness. The Constitution says, if a name changes in a new dispensation, it has to go through a legislative process.

“Yes, you changed a name, keep the name, and call it a name without a legislative process, shame on us. Shame on the Gambia government. If we are to move forward with the Security Sector Reform (SSR), the laws that govern our security outfits must be changed and changed now not later,” Mr. Njie stressed.

On the “unequipped” security sector, he said the Gambia government must invest in the security sector, and said the excuse that funds are limited, cannot, and will not go unchallenged, seeing that the government spends money in areas with questionable priorities.

The TANGO Chairman called on the National Assembly members to ensure that resources allocated to national security services are adequate for them to do a good job.

He stressed that the public cannot keep accusing the security men and women of corruption when their salaries can hardly buy a bag of rice.

“It is our servicemen and women that keep us secure when we are asleep and if we can say we enjoy peace in this country, it’s because of the diligence and hard work of these great men and women in uniform. So, we cannot take their conditions of service and play with it. They cannot be underpaid, they cannot work in environments that are not conducive, and they cannot be unequipped to execute their duties. Our government must make security conditions of service a priority,” the TANGO Chairman told stakeholders.

TANGO Chairman made these remarks as a representative of the CSOs and NGOs at the launch of DCAF support to Security Sector Reform in the Gambia on 23rd November 2022.

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