The Gambia reels from two decades of dictatorship, we recognise the magnitude
of your transitional mandate but still remain highly optimistic that you can
achieve a great deal of success.
Consistent with the general expectation of most Gambians, international donors and rights groups, you have brought a sigh of relief to so many when you swore in 11 members of the-much-awaited Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) before your departure to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mr. President, your swearing in of the CRC is a welcome development because the 1997 Constitution is perceived by most citizens to be an aberration; an extension of your predecessor’s military edicts and draconian decrees which he routinely used to unleash havoc on his perceived political enemies. We hope and pray that unlike Yaya Jammeh, you and your government will this time round, deliver to the Gambian people, a sacred legal document that will be the pride and envy of future generations.
Mr. President, it is our expectation that President Adama Barrow will bequeath to posterity a legal document worthy of its name; one that treats all Gambians as one people equal before the law regardless of their party affiliation, ethnicity, religious beliefs or socio-cultural orientation. Mr. President, any document that falls short of this high bar will be a travesty of justice that could potentially blemish your own political legacy.
Mr. President, however, your tweet on the occasion reflecting the general feeling of citizens that our nation needs an entrenched-two-5-year presidential term limit is testament to your commitment to ending self-perpetuating rule in our beloved nation. Congrats and keep the flag flying!
Mr. President, crucially still, there remains the lingering argument as to whether you will leave office after three years as agreed with your Coalition 2016 peers or serve the constitutionally mandated five-year term. Considering the complex ramifications associated with the three-year term, we would advise that you err on the side of reason and constitutionality and stay on for FIVE YEARS! Precisely because of the daunting challenges your transitional government is faced with—colossal security apparatus bequeathed to you by a tyrant who abused all institutions more particularly the security forces. Reorganising, restructuring, reconstituting and instilling a sense of greater military/security discipline, democratic values and the respect for civil and citizens’ rights to constitutional due process is a sine qua non to The Gambia’s character if we are to be what we aspire to be in this twenty-first century globalized world.
Mr. President, therefore, reviewing and rewriting the 1997 Constitution is easier said than done. Given the cumbersome and herculean nature of legal draftsmanship and the character and shape of modern day constitutions, the Gambian people deserve nothing less than an internationally respected document that treats all and sundry as equals- no more, no less.
Mr. President, closer to home is the issue of Press Freedom that the current constitution literary criminalizes. Under the current constitutional dispensation, journalists have limited space to write as they would have otherwise wanted given all the doctored clauses criminalizing free, unfettered expression of views by journalists. Under your predecessor’s authoritarian caprices the Gambian press corps was both literally and figuratively emasculated and there are high expectations that your government will remedy this great injustice.