President Adama Barrow & Dawda Jallow Minister Of Justice
By Madi Jobarteh
In 2018 the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was created for the purpose of writing a new constitution for the Gambia after everyone agreed that the 1997 Constitution has immense inadequacies and was no more fit for a proper democracy. In his 2016 Manifesto Coalition presidential candidate Adama Barrow stated that upon winning the election he will “Establish a body of jurists and competent personalities to review the constitution with a view to cleansing it of all provisions which are inimical to democracy and the rule of law.”
The result of this promise is the creation of the CRC in 2018 which spent two and half years and spent 116 million dalasi to seek the opinions of Gambians at home and abroad to write a whole new constitution. The 2016 Coalition had stated in its unsigned MOU that their goal was to,
“Put an end to impunity and self-perpetuating rule by establishing constitutional and institutional safeguards and propagate normative values and practices that would ensure the consolidation of participatory Democracy, Good Governance, Rule of Law, Substantive Justice and Human Rights.”
They agreed that they will institutionalize presidential term limits and strengthen checks and balances “by consolidating judicial, parliamentary, media and other civil society oversight in order to hold Government officials accountable to the people.”
In addition to these, they also promised to reform all laws that infringe on democracy and human rights, while also promising to create a national human rights commission, a truth commission as well as reform a host of “executive, legislature, judiciary, civil service and other oversight institutions such as the Office of the Ombudsman and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).”
After going round and collecting the opinions of Gambians, the CRC finally presented its final draft constitution to the President on 30 March 2020. On 14 September the Minister of Justice Dawda Jallow placed the constitution promulgation bill before the National Assembly for the First Reading. When the draft constitution came for the Second Reading on the next day, September 15 the deliberations dragged for eight days where, on September 22 it got killed after failing to secure the required 42 votes to pass on to the Third Reading.
At the end of the count, 31 NAMs voted for and 23 voted against thereby sounding the death knell for the citizens’ hope for a new constitution that should usher in the New Gambia and the Third Republic!
It has been three years since the draft constitution was killed. It is seven years since a new government was elected to replace the dictatorship. Yet until today, the fundamental tool necessary to give credence to the hopes and aspirations of the people for a New Gambia and system change remain elusive.
On a day like today, it is in place to commend the 23 NAMs who voted for the draft constitution that they have demonstrated their resolve and commitment to the creation of a better Gambia. To the minority 23 NAMs who voted against it, it is to once again record their betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the people that even generations yet unborn shall come to read about their misdeeds in the books of history.
Similarly, it is to record with shame how Pres. Adama Barrow and his entire Cabinet not only failed to stand with and defend the draft constitution but even more disgracefully also took steps to undermine it. They have not only wasted the 116 million dalasi invested in this process but also dashed the hopes and aspirations of the people hence served to further entrench dictatorial systems and tendencies in the Gambia until today.
For the Gambia Our Homeland