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If President fails to turn before National Assembly, NAMS have power to impeach him.

Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian human rights activist

The action by the National Assembly to insist that the President is present as they discuss the State of the Nation Address is not only in the right direction but indeed also long overdue but highly welcome and necessary. There is a reason why a democratic state is divided into three separate powers – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. This separation of powers is indeed the equilibrium that restrains each and every one of the three organs from abusing their respective powers hence guarantees that each and every one of them abide by the rule of law.

It is on the basis of this separation in accordance with the rule of law that there is transparency and accountability in the affairs of the State without which everyone in that society is at risk of abuse. The Constitution has mandated the National Assembly to check the Executive to ensure that it does not only perform its constitutional duties but in so doing also renders account as to how it is performing those duties. This is why the Constitution makes it incumbent upon the Executive to always report to the National Assembly which is also empowered to request the Executive to attend its sittings for effective oversight.

Therefore, if there is any institution that has the primary role to check and discipline the Executive first and foremost it is the Legislature. In multiple places of the Constitution, clear-cut powers have been given to the Legislature to play that role effectively and efficiently. It is the National Assembly that allocates and approves the use of resources by the Executive. It is the National Assembly that approves the creation of institutions by the Executive. It is the National Assembly that bears primary duty to advice and penalise the Executive for wrongdoing.

Therefore, if the Executive underperforms, or abuses its powers, or is mismanaging resources or violating rights or disregarding the rule of law and nothing is done to stop that then it is the National Assembly that must be blamed. Since Independence, the National Assembly has woefully failed to play its rightful role to check and penalise the Executive in order to ensure discipline and performance. It is precisely because of the failure of the Legislature that we had one man and his party govern this country for 30 years only to be replaced by a tyrant who misruled the country for a further 22 years and committing intolerable atrocities. It is due to the failure of the National Assembly that poverty, injustice and corruption are prevalent in the Gambia from Independence to date.

Therefore, the National Assembly must stand its ground and realise that it is the body that in fact governs the country. The parliament is the key decision maker as guaranteed in the Constitution hence they must ensure that their authority is respected. The President has a duty to answer to the call of the National Assembly by himself and there is no excuse for him to fail to do so. By failing to answer to the National Assembly it means the President would be in contempt of the National Assembly which is a clear and total disrespect of the Constitution as well as blatant flouting of all norms and standards of democracy and good governance.

I wish to therefore commend our Members of the National Assembly for making such a bold, apt and timely move to demand the presence of the President on the floor of the National Assembly. Failure to be present on the floor of the National Assembly would constitute a clear violation of the Constitution under Section 77 subsection 2 which states that the National Assembly may request the President ‘to attend a sitting of the National Assembly for the discussion of a matter of national importance’.

Therefore, if the President refuses to honour the request of the National Assembly this will clearly constitute a violation of a constitutional provision which is an impeachable offense. Section 67 subsection 1(a) states that the President can be removed from office for ‘wilful violation of any provision of this Constitution’. Therefore, the National Assembly must not waste any time to seek impeachment if the President fails to turn up to attend a sitting of the National Assembly on Wednesday 25th September 2019.

National Assembly Members have to realise that there is a purpose why we have a National Assembly. The purpose of the National Assembly is nothing other than to check and discipline the Executive to ensure that the rights and needs of Gambians are protected and fulfilled. It is in the protection and fulfilment of our rights and needs that citizens enjoy freedom, opportunities and development which must be provided by the Executive.

The Gambia is a multiparty democracy whose Constitution intends that only democracy and good governance based on human rights and the rule of law must prevail. The foremost institution with the ultimate responsibility and power to ensure that democracy and good governance prevails is the National Assembly. It is only when the National Assembly fails that bad governance and dictatorship prevails. This is because when the National Assembly fails to check and discipline the Executive this is when the Executive now becomes arrogant hence disregard of the rule of law and violations become prevalent hence impunity.

For the Gambia Our Homeland

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