‘Where were we when the constitution was changed 52 times’

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A leading Gambian political science professor, Dr. Ismalie Ceesay, has asked a rhetorical question, saying ‘where were Gambians when the 1997 Constitution was changed for 52 times.

“Where were we for the constitution to be changed for 52 times? How could we allow that to happen? I think for me, it is not about the constitution but it is about also our attitude because even if we bring the best constitution and make it into law, once the people don’t have that ethics and morality to protect national interest then the constitution is useless,” he held.

Dr. Ceesay was speaking on Wednesday morning at the opening of a two-day CSOs’ engagement on the constitutional review process organised by Africans Rising held at the NaNA conference hall along the Bertil Harding Highway.

“Even with the best constitution, if we have a wrong leader with the wrong parliament with a people who don’t understand these issues, it can be easily changedfor another 52 times in the next 20 years or so. Therefore, more education is needed.”

He said constitutional and security reforms are good, but said that the most important reform should the educational reform. “We need to reform our education sector for the fact that our education sector is not fit for purpose. We are not producing Gambians to be able to solve their basic problems and understand their basic rights. Therefore, for me, it is not about the constitution per se but it is about how we change people’s mindsets.”

Dr. Ceesay said: “We have to be vigilant to ensure that the constitution that we create must be respected by the government and nobody can change it anyhow they want for 52 times.”

“We have to make sure that every Gambian knows the constitution. If you are a Muslim, obviously you know it is the Qur’an that guides you. So if you are a Gambian citizen, you must know the constitution so that you don’t need anybody to interpret it for you,” he argued, while suggesting that the constitution must be translated in local languagesfor those who cannot speak English.

African Advocacy Adviser for Action Aid International, Buba Khan, spoke at length on the significance of the forum, adding that CSOs coming together and contributing meaningfully to the ongoing process in The Gambia is commendable.

The 1997 Constitution, Khan said, has been bastardised 52 times by the former presiden tjust to suit himself, while reminding the CSOs of their important role in drafting the new constitution.

Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan, African Rising coordinator, Boniface Mwangi, leading advocacy in Kenya and Lala Touray African Rising ambassador both spoke on the significance of the forum. “We have to make sure that the change that we fought for is sustained and the most important thing in new Gambia is the constitution,” Saidykhan added.

Author: Momodou Jawo