Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


November 27, 2015
Jammeh proclaimed that FGM is banned in Gambia but should he trusted?

Jammeh proclaimed that FGM is banned in Gambia but should he trusted?

Since President Jammeh made the announcement on Monday, one media outlet has particularly trumpeted this victory. Anti-FGM groups, which have done tremendous work by providing a much-needed voice and care to victims have also praised the decision while highlighting their own involvement. Interestingly, international journalists have left out the fact that local media in The Gambia have been silent. Why? Because a free press is nonexistent, and most of the country’s independent journalists have either been killed by the Jammeh regime, live in exile, or are currently languishing in prison.

Lost in all the celebrations, particularly on social media, is the fact that FGM is not banned in The Gambia, at least not yet. There is no enforceable law on the books. And recall that Jammeh is prone to making outlandish, bizarre, and one-off statements. The last time Jammeh actually lived up to a promise was when he publicly vowed to summarily execute death row inmates, which was  carried out in August 2012.

Also missing from the articles that highlight Gambia’s supposed ban on FGM is that Jammeh is likely only trying to improve his country’s image. Soon, the European Union will decide the fate of a multi-million dollar aid package that was initially suspended due to increasing human rights concerns. The Gambia’s treasury is broke and Jammeh needs all the assistance he can possibly muster.

In regards to The Gambia, observers often have a hard time understanding how utterly deplorable the situation truly is, and human rights violations there go unreported, or at best underreported. At the same time of the FGM announcement, for instance, 33 activists protesting illegal sand mining in their community were detained, allegedly tortured, and are now being held at the country’s Mile 2 maximum security prison. This incident has thus far failed to make the pages of any international media outlet.

As a human rights activist, I strongly encourage celebrating small victories – it undoubtedly helps to keep us sane – and the announced ban on FGM is surely one of them. However, given Jammeh’s track record of abuse and erratic behavior, let us hold off on popping the champagne until this “ban” amounts to more than just rhetoric.

By Jeffrey Smith                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights


November 25, 2015
Kartong' Youth during previous mining protests

Kartong’ Youth during previous mining protests

Gambia Youth for Unity (GYU) is deeply concerned and condemns the arrest of over forty youths from Kartong, West Coast Region including women and children. “We condemn unethical mining taking place in Kartong and we call on the Gambian authorities to halt mining operations and release the detained youths whose action shows that they were merely protecting their lands from illegal mining,” said Omar Bah, GYU Chair.

 On November 20th, a Gambian local newspaper Foroyaa issued a story headlined “Kartong Community questions the benefit of heavy metal mining”. The aggrieved youths from Kartong visited Foroyaa to lodge a complaint, questioning the benefit of mineral mining in their community. According to one of the complainant, it’s alleged that the mining activities have resulted to the death of a 12 year old boy. “A 12 year boy in grade 6, drowned in one of the pits on the day after the Muslim feast of ‘Tobaski’.” Mineral mining has not only resulted in loss of life but is also threatening agricultural production and the pits have cultivated an infestation of mosquitoes in the community.

 According to media reports, the youths of Kartong have been protesting against mineral mining for the past three weeks. On November 22nd, reports indicated that a large gathering of villagers came out to protest against mineral miners. Kartong is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and is famous for its tourism, fishing and rich ecosystems. Mineral mining has threatened the livelihood of the villagers and their community by increasing the rate of soil erosion and sea encroachment. Several metric tons are mined from the village each week over the past six to seven years.

 The events of November 22nd resulted in a standoff between youths of Kartong and security forces. This ultimately saw scores of youths arrested for exercising their fundamental rights. GYU therefore calls for calm and specifically to Gambian security forces to release all youths arrested for merely exercising their constitutional right, by protesting against mineral mining. As a youth movement we feel compelled to stand up and condemn the unconstitutional arrest of such environmentally responsible youths who should not be subject to illegal arrest and abuse from security forces sworn to protect them.


November 24, 2015


By Sarjo Bayang

Going by marital vows of loyal spouses you keep going until you can no longer go on. Gambia as a nation is not marital partner of presidents, their deputies, or chief clerks. Constitution of Gambia provides clear guidelines about what needs doing in the event a sitting president is corrupt, sick (mental and physical) or falls dead. “In sickness, in plenty or poverty, in joy and times pain, until death doth us part” Gambia as a nation is certainly not married to any president.

Is the Gambia National Assembly not violating constitutional provisions as the nation’s president though still alive but known to be seriously corrupt, very sick, and in routine misconduct by gross abuse of public office? To avoid speculations and denial, see what the constitution says and whether or not you think the national assembly is preserving what the book of rules contains in letter and spirit.

Gambian Constitution at a Glance:

Section 66: Removal of President on grounds of Mental or physical Incapacity. Subsection (1): Where the Speaker receives a notice in writing signed by not less than one half of all the members of the National assembly alleging that the President is, by reason of infirmly of mind or body, incapable of discharging the functions of his or her office, and giving particulars of the alleged incapacity, the Speaker shall request the Chief Justice to constitute, on the recommendation of the head of the medical services of The Gambia, a Medical Board comprising at least five independent medical practitioners of appropriate standing.

Subsection (2): The Board shall enquire into the matter and make a report to the Chief Justice stating the opinion of the Board whether or not the President is, by reason of infirmity of mind or body incapable of discharging the functions of the office of President. The President, and if he or she so wishes, his or her one medical adviser may appear, and shall have the right to be heard, before the board.

Subsection (3): Where the Board reports that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his or her office by reason of infirmity of mind or body, the Chief Justice shall submit the report to the Speaker, who shall, if the National Assembly is not sitting, summon the National assembly to meet within seven days. Subsection (4) The members of the National Assembly shall deliberate on the report and vote on it and the President shall only be removed where two thirds of the members present and voting, vote for his removal. Subsection (5) The report of the Board shall be Final and conclusive and shall not be enquired into by any court.

Section 67: Misconduct

Subsection (1) The President may be removed from office in accordance with this section on any of the following grounds: (a) abuse of office, wilful violation of the oath of allegiance or the President’s oath of office, or wilful violation of any provision of this Consultation, or (b) Misconduct in that- (i) He or she has conducted himself in a manner which brings or is likely to bring the office of President into contempt or disrepute; or (ii) He or she has dishonestly done any act which is prejudicial or inimical to the economy of The Gambia or dishonestly omitted to act with similar consequences.

(4) The President shall not- (a) While he or she continues in office as President, hold any other office of profit or emolument whether public or private, occupy any other position carrying the right to remuneration for the rendering of services, or directly or indirectly carry on any trade, business or other undertaking;

Provided that the President may undertake and carry on any agricultural business including farming, horticulture, livestock rearing and artisanal fishing, he she shall not;

(b) Undertake any activity inconsistent with his or her official position or expose himself or herself to any situation which carries with it the risk of a conflict developing between his or her official concerns and his or her private interests; (c) Use his or her position as such or use information entrusted received by him or her in an official position directly or indirectly to enrich himself or herself or any other person.

Section 65: Vacancy When a President is sick or Dead

(1) The office of President shall become vacant during the term Office of president of a Presidency: (a) On the death or resignation of President or (b) On the President ceasing to hold office under section 63, 66 or section 67.

Regulating the Regulator

Serious case of violation is clearly seen from above provisions of Gambian Constitution on part of the President and by equal scale of culpability wilful inaction of the National Assembly. Everyone in Gambia and beyond following developments knows full enough that the current president is sick, excessively corrupt, and routinely in abuse of public office for his personal economic interest. The constitution provides for removal of a sitting president on grounds that the current occupier undoubtedly qualifies.

Considering that the Gambia National Assembly is not acting in accordance with constitutional provisions, they will be seen stooping lowest in betrayal of people that voted them as representatives. There is serious constitutional crisis in a situation like this where everyone is awareness of what needs doing but nobody takes responsibility.

By failing to be just and safe guardians of the nation’s big book of rules under their trusted custody, Gambia National Assembly is due for unseating through collective negligence of duty. The public has all rights to sanction their national assembly representatives. Moment of right action now arises when the regulator has to be regulated upon proper scrutiny.

If this situation slips through without public demand for accountability in bringing national assembly members to book, it may render constitutional crisis leading to ungovernable state of affairs.

Sick President cannot recover a sinking economy and melting finances

Without needing efforts explaining to anyone, it is clear by all indicators that Gambia economy is dead with melting financial temperatures at the peak. During his active life the current president has been so busy building his personal fortune from abuse of public resources. He was not anticipating sickness, whereby his personal health recovery becomes higher priority now than recovery of the national economy and financial order.

It is already too late for any quick fix. What is making matters more serious and worse is failure by the National Assembly to take responsibility in discharging a sick president from public duties.

Everyone fears that talking about unseating the president will bring them trouble in the event of his recovery to take revenge on those calling for his unseating. Not taking the right action at most appropriate time will bear heavily on everyone and those National Assembly members will not escape hardship born of their gross negligence.

“A stitch in time saves nine”, but will Gambia National Assembly Members act swift enough to rescue this sinking nation from the iron fist grabbing hands of a sick president who refuses to let go?


November 22, 2015
Author: Ebou Gaye

Author: Ebou Gaye

By Ebou Gaye

You are opportunists, not patriots
You need a great deal of edification and enlightenment,
As you have lost your bearings and swerved to the wrong path
You have taken the tyrant as your lord in lieu of God the Almighty,
In your attempts to ingratiate yourself with him or gain his favour,
And expect everybody to prostrate and bow down for him in total submission as you do
You project the despot and yourselves as the only patriotic citizens of your country,
And brand others unpatriotic citizens who want to destroy the country
Your behaviour epitomizes opportunism, not patriotism
It is utterly wrong and absurd for you to judge others by yourselves,
As not everybody can be tempted by material resources or what you see as goodies to compromise his or her integrity and principles,
Pledge unalloyed allegiance to the dictator as you have done,
And dance to his tune as he wants everybody to do
You are opportunists, not patriots
You habitually eulogize the autocrat and scathingly criticize his rivals and perceived enemies,
Blindly defending him by justifying, denying or covering up his blunders and misdeeds,
Shifting the blame to the innocent,
With the aim of exonerating or absolving him from culpability,
As if he is infallible, impeccable and indispensable
I put it to you that you are wasting your energy,
As your goal is unrealistic and unachievable
You cannot silence or neutralize all his critics and opponents,
For most of them are determined in their acts as you are
No amount of praise-singing, denial, counter-criticism and cover-up can exculpate the tyrant,
As his record is there to speak for itself,
And will remain there for posterity to judge
You are opportunists, not patriots
You brutally torture, mutilate, maim and kill people for the sadist,
As a way of intimidating, gagging or eliminating his opponents and perceived enemies,
Turning deaf ears to the uproarious cries of human rights activists
You mercilessly frame, incriminate, convict and incarcerate decent citizens viewed as a threat to the interest of the tyrant,
Blatantly contravening the laws of the land and the golden rule “Do to others what you would like them to do to you”,
Thereby turning yourselves to public enemies and outcasts in the process,
And later dumped or eliminated by the despot when he feels the urge to get rid of you or realizes that you have outlived your usefulness to him,
As he does whimsically and capriciously with those who do nasty jobs or run dirty errands for him
You are opportunists, not patriots
You cite human rights violations and crimes perpetuated by people elsewhere,
And highlight the so-called achievements of the despot in terms of development,
When the tyrants is denounced for violating the rights of his own compatriots and committing atrocious crimes against them,
As though that gives him the licence to brutalize and butcher his people,
After taking an oath to protect them and serve their interest
I remind you of the sayings “Two wrongs cannot make a right” and “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”,
And the fact that development is meaningless where human lives are not valued,
As the latter is more important than the former
It is also worthy to note that the money invested to bring development is from donors and state coffers, not from the pocket of the dictator as you want to fool people into believing
You are opportunists, not patriots
You wittingly aid and abet the dictator to monopolize, personalize, plunder and squander state properties and resources,
 Through his self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement schemes,
Thereby pauperizing his compatriots,
Transforming his country into a heavily-indebted, insolvent, begging nation,
Begging in the name of his impoverished, impecunious compatriots,
Only to misappropriate or embezzle huge chunks of the funds received from donors on their behalf
You are opportunists, not patriots
You willingly and eagerly rubber stamp bills in favour of the despot,
Arming him with sweeping powers,
Denying citizens their God-given rights,
Giving him undue advantage over all citizens,
And hence transform him into a demigod,
Ignoring the interest of the electorate you claim to represent at the National Assembly,
As if you owe him more obligation than you owe the electorate
This is the climax of insincerity, unfairness and unscrupulousness
You are opportunists, not patriots
Is the dictator the only one who can or should lead?
Is he superior to you and all your compatriots?
Is he the only one who deserves good in your country?
Does his personal interest supersede national interest?
Are you oblivious to the fact that you are strengthening the hands of the devil?
Are you not cognizant of the fact that you are placing your lives and the lives of your compatriots in jeopardy?
Do you think you can live comfortably and happily on earth with your monstrous, barbaric, beastly, odious and obnoxious acts?
How many people of your ilk have been disgraced or liquidated by tyrants, or brought to book through the efforts of democracy and human rights advocates?
Are you senseless, thoughtless, brainless, heartless or shameless?
You better wake up from your deep slumber and kick out your filthy habit before it is too late!


November 21, 2015
Can Jammeh be kicked out through the ballot box?

Can Jammeh be kicked out through the ballot box? Yes!! says Princess Buga Gambia

By Princess Buga Gambia Dear Gambian Opposition Political Parties, First of all I would like to crave your indulgence to hide my true identity for the safety and security of my relatives who live and work in the Gambia. I am a Gambian citizen and a PhD Candidate of Political Science here in North America. My area of research is African politics in general and fixed presidential term limits in particular. My aim here is to share my thoughts with all of you with the hope of building a consensus on how to effectively and peacefully remove Jammeh from power in the 2016 presidential elections of our homeland. I have a five point plan which, if implemented, would surely and definitely result in a defeat for Jammeh in 2016.

This is the second of my five point agenda. My first point agenda was addressed to all the Gambians living in the diaspora on how we can play a dramatic role in next year’s election in our country and it was published on Fatusradio online newspaper. To start with myself, there are 9 adults living in my family compound and out of them, it was only my mum who used to go out and vote in all the previous elections. What I have just done is to get the remaining 8 members of my family and my best friend to swear to Allah with the Quran that if they are alive next year, they will not only register and vote but that they will not vote for Jammeh. This means that if Allah let them live until next year, I have garnered 10 votes for the opposition next year!!!! I implore all Gambians in the diaspora to use whatever method you deem appropriate to convince ALL THE ADULTS in your families to register and vote for the opposition in next year’s presidential elections. There should be no more voter apathy in the Gambia again. Deal?

It might be interesting for some of the readers to note that in the 2011 presidential elections, the voting age population of the Gambia was 894, 774. However, 657, 904 people came out to vote. This means that about 236, 870 or 26% of fully grown up Gambian adults (of course including the 8 newly converted members of my family) did not exercise their constitutional rights to vote. I can think of 2 possible reasons why they deliberately did vote. One is that perhaps they have not been adversely/negatively affected/harmed (at least not directly) by Jammeh and secondly they could not see any hope/credibility in any of the opposition candidates who could either defeat Jammeh or represent their interest/concern. In this article, I will refer to these people as “the group on the fence”. Yes indeed, a quarter of the voting population of the Gambia are on the fence. My 2nd Point Agenda is addressed to the opposition parties and I believe that it can get this group on the fence to jump down on the side of the opposition. My thesis is based on 2 worst case assumptions:

My first assumption is that there will be no election reform in the Gambia. We all know that Jammeh is more suicidal than his godfather Ghadaffi, he is more power hungry than Kurunziza of Burundi and more heartless and deadly than even Sadam Hussein. So he would prefer to kill Gambians or get himself killed or chased/forced out than to leave power peacefully. So it will really be foolhardy not to believe him when he recently said that elections will go on next year with or without the opposition. My second assumption is that all the opposition parties will not unanimously agree and whole-heartedly support one candidate to represent all of them in next year’s elections. This assumption is supported by history and it is really not far-fetched as we can already see the signs on the wall. My postulation therefore is that even if there are no electoral reforms in the Gambia and even if the opposition did not agree on a coalition/alliance, there is still a 90% possibility of Jammeh losing next year’s election. However, whether he would concede defeat and get out of State House peacefully or refuse, only history can tell. But he can definitely be voted out of power by Gambians in 2016. This is what I believe the opposition should do in order to help in realizing this goal.

First of all I am suggesting that no opposition party should boycott next year’s elections. And secondly, each of the opposition parties, especially the 4 major and most popular ones in the country (UDP, PPP, PDOIS and NRP) should each nominate a brand new candidate as their party leaders who shall fulfil at least the following 3 basic criteria: a. A new candidate between the ages of 30–50 b. A bold, charismatic, upright and respectable person c. A person who is educated to at least a first degree (Bachelors) level

It is my contention that Jammeh is at his all-time worst ratings locally, regionally and internationally and he is at his most vulnerable to be voted out this time around. So I believe that any opposition candidate with these 3 basic qualities can win the hearts and minds of the 26% of the group on the fence, the majority of Gambian youths, Gambians in the diaspora and even members of the security forces. If the opposition parties cannot come up with such a candidate after more than 20 years of politics, then perhaps we are not ready for change. You the opposition leaders owe it to us Gambians to come up with the caliber of candidates that we want/need. And for you to do that, you all really need to come out of your selfish shells and think out of your confined and rusty boxes. If there are no such personalities within your existing and old party structures, then look beyond.

There are dozens of highly educated, trustworthy, charismatic, bold, respectable, successful and patriotic Gambians all over the country. There are managing directors, CEOs, academics and numerous “retired” young officials all over the country. There are even such qualified people currently working under the Jammeh administration who could be approached and convinced to resign from their positions and run for the presidency. Please be imaginative, be selfless and be the positive agents of political change that the 90% of Gambians are craving and praying for. This concludes my second point agenda for political change through the ballot box.

The third of my five point plan to get rid of Jammeh through the ballot box will follow the publication of this one Ins shaa Allah. Its theme is “Can he security forces of the Gambia galvanize behind a formidable opposition candidate to get rid of Jammeh through the ballot box?” The answer is a resounding yes they can!!!! Unlike popular believe, 99% of the members of the security forces are the most fed up of Jammeh’s rule because they have suffered more than any other group in the hands of Jammeh. There is a simple secret about our gallant people in uniforms which if a good opposition leader is aware of and uses to good effect, the 99% of the good/decent security personnel will not only cast their votes for the opposition, but will be ready to side with the Gambian opposition in case Jammeh decides not to go or to shed blood after the elections!!!! I will tell you how the security forces are actually Jammeh’s Achilles heels. Watch this space!!!



November 20, 2015
 Secretary General Lamin Nyabally dismissed and disgraced

Secretary General Lamin Nyabally dismissed and disgraced

Kibaaro News has received unimpeachable information that the Gambian dictator; Yahya Jammeh has fired his Secretary General and Presidential Affairs Minister, Mr. Lamin Nyabally yesterday Thursday 19th November 2015 while on his presidential tour in the Upper River town of Basse. According to information received by this medium, President Jammeh was not happy with the way health issues are handled in Basse and its surroundings and he kept asking his secretary general Nyabally how comes he was never briefed by him on such issues. The President was said to have blamed Nyabally for his incompetence and without a second thought, he was fired from his post as Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs. After Health Minister Omar Sey informed the seriously ill President that he did discuss the issue with Secretary General Nyabally, but no action was taken since then.

The President was reported to have been very angry and the anger landed Secretary Nyabally into the presidential hot water and before the end of the inauguration of a thirty million dalasi health centre in Sabi village near the town of Basse, Nyabally was fired publicly by his boss and told to make sure he clears his desk within 24 hours. The President did said Nyabally was very lucky that he the President is in a happy mood thanks to as according to him the warm welcome he received from the people of URR otherwise he was going to the hotel. Ex Secretary General Nyabally was seen shaking and sweating continuously thanking the President like a lame duck about to be sacrificed but the owner changed his mind. Our sources did indicated that he Nyabally still retains the forestry ministerial portfolio but his rank within the Jammeh highrachy was lowered beyond belief and many confidently continue speculating that Nyabally would not serve another year before his final engagement with the electric broom. Either the hotel or the streets is anyone’s guess. At the time of going to press, Nyabally was said to have rushed to Banjul to clear his desk as instructed and is later expected to rejoin the Presidential tour today.


November 19, 2015
Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh unconstitutioanlly dismissed from the judiciary

Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh unconstitutioanlly dismissed from the judiciary

From whatever perspective, it is perverse, absolutely wrong on all fronts, and an assault on the principle of judicial independence as that doctrine is ordinarily understood in any country whose public life is grounded in democratic institutionalism under the rule of law.

At paragraph 6 of the preamble of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia (the Constitution) the claim is advanced that “the functions of the arms of government have been clearly defined, their independence amply secured with adequate checks and balances …”. At substantive sections of the Constitution, similar and more specific claims are made about the operational independence of the courts. These claims are false and utterly nonsensical, not only because of how the Executive routinely nullifies Constitutional protections, but more fundamentally because of the deep architectural flaws embedded in our supreme document.

Undoubtedly, the Constitution permits the legal mismanagement of Gambian public life. With its hollow protections, it would still be an instrument of violence, if only potentially, even in the most benign of hands. As they say, the courts are placed in between ‘the rock and hard place’. This is perilous for Gambian public life!

There is no question that great decisions worthy of celebration emanate from individual members of the bench from time to time. As an institution, the judiciary – and by extension the courts – is far from independent even in that sacrosanct domain of operational matters. To be efficacious, the rule of law must be systemic, not individual. In a largely arbitrary public terrain, judicial officers must be shielded from even the threat of Executive reprisals.

In a country where high flying intellectuals and economically successfully middle class individuals toy with the false and rubbish notion of total disinterest in seminal public questions – politics, in short – it is not a compelling contention to expect that judicial officers must consistently remain the foremost exemplars of rectitude as if they live outside the ambit of human frailties, failings and concerns. When tragedy strikes, the brave and consistent adherent to the rule of law would be left to his own devices, to pick up the pieces, so to say, and negotiate his way around the powerful landmines of Gambian public life. Major assaults on what remain of the very fragile systemic integrity of Gambian polity passed into the annals of our public intercourse as a matter of course.

On 06 November 2015, His Worship Ebrima Jaiteh, of Brikama Magistrates’ Court, was arrested and detained at the Serious Crime Unit of Police Headquarters in Banjul. As of 1400 hours 09 November, he was still detained. His ‘serious crime’ was to terminate, on perfectly legitimate jurisdictional grounds, the case of Inspector General of Police v Saikou Conteh, and Kebba Conteh, Brk/Criminal Case No:90/13. The alleged offence at the heart of this particular prosecution occurred at Sukuta, Kombo North, West Coast Region.

Although Sukuta is politically and administratively under the purview of the West Coast Region, Brikama Magistrates’ Court can no longer exercise jurisdiction over cases from this sprawling community. By the Bundung Magistrates’ Court (Constitution) Order1997, issued under Legal Notice No. 3 of 1997, “… the Brikama Magistrates’ Court shall cease to have jurisdiction …” over “Sukuta, Sukuta Sanchaba …”. Avoiding the futile exercise of presiding over a nullity, His Worship Jaiteh ultimately struck out this particular case for lack of jurisdiction and discharged the accused persons “with immediate effect”. It is instructive to note that this case commenced more than two years ago and for whatever reason remains undecided as of 29 October when His Worship Jaiteh terminated it on jurisdictional grounds. The IGP is free to reinstitute proceedings in light of the fact that the accused persons were merely discharged!

Instead of consulting with its legal advisers, the Executive simply invoked its police powers, completely unlawfully, by ordering the arrest of His Worship Jaiteh. For more than the Constitutional limit of 72 hours, he remained unlawfully detained even after a meeting with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) a few hours before the expiry of that time limit.

If my information is correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, His Worship Jaiteh is charged with neglect of duty and already appeared at the Brikama Magistrates’ Court, his place of work over the last seven months to answer the charge. Unless sense and legality prevails in Executive councils, his current judicial career may be regarded as virtually over, a big loss to Gambia for a magistrate so competent and productive, both intellectually and operationally. His sittings routinely commence as early as 0900, and almost always by 0930, and his decisions, as expected, are always reasoned.

The courts have an inbuilt checks and balances system via the general appellate mechanism. If the State was aggrieved by His Worship Jaiteh’s judicial decision, the lawful route of getting redress is to trigger the general accountability system of appeal by going to the High Court. On the facts, the Executive probably feels too big for that cumbersome process it sees as the puny citizen’s avenue for resolving public disputes. This mentality is perilous for the overall polity, including for the Executive itself.

With an IGP who is reportedly legally trained, and an Attorney General (AG) with many years standing as a Barrister, why was His Worship Jaiteh ever arrested over such a non-issue? Are these holders of high public office not aware that their employer has no legal permission to dance in such a prohibited public space? The courts are a judicial dancehall, not a playground for arbitrary Executive directives. If the Executive does not recognise this sacrosanct principle, the IGP, and the AG, are better off thinking about alternative avenues for paying for their livelihoods.

When he appeared at Brikama Magistrates’ Court, His Worship Jaiteh’s case was reportedly heard ‘in camera’, i.e., behind closed doors. There was no legal basis for this as the Constitution, at section 24(2), mandates that: “All proceedings of every court and proceedings relating to the determination of the existence or extent of civil rights or obligations before any other authority, including the announcement of the decision of the court or other authority, shall be held in public”. The proviso to this section has no application to His Worship Jaiteh’s case. His arrest and detention was widely reported and publicly discussed. It was fully in the public domain!

For present purposes, why should another magistrate be handed a ‘poisoned chalice’? Why should another judicial career be destroyed in making a magistrate preside over a baseless case fraught with such explosive political undertones? Due to the inherent unsoundness of the allegation against His Worship Jaiteh, this is a lose-lose situation for any magistrate who presides over the matter in that he would either be fired by the Executive, or his professional and general reputation would be in such tatters he would be effectively redundant. His judicial decisions may henceforth command no respect! It is both legally and morally wrong to assign this case to any magistrate.

Why are we in such a monstrous situation, and why do I contend that a magistrate could be fired for presiding over this baseless if politically-charged case?

As a national document, it is disturbing that the Constitution embodies immense potential for violence against the citizen, and of stalemate and paralysis in governance. A crisis, any crisis is therefore only solvable via the agency of raw power, not through the more sublime avenues of political and legal negotiation in a public environment equally responsive to the legitimate needs of all its members. Unquestionably, the Judiciary is a victim of the legal centralization of national power in the Executive. By section 141 (2)(c) of the Constitution, “a judge of a Superior Court … may have his or her appointment terminated by the President in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission” (JSC).

To appreciate the subtle if legal subjugation of the Judiciary, to the Executive, it is vital to disentangle the architecture of the management structure at the former. At section 138(1) of the Constitution, the President has the legal authority to appoint the Chief Justice “after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission”. Second only to the Chief Justice in the administrative hierarchy is the Judicial Secretary, “who shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the JSC” (section 143(3)).

What is the basic appointing criteria regarding Superior Court judges other than the Chief Justice? Committed to leaving nothing to chance, the Constitution provides an explicit answer. “All other judges of the Superior Courts except the judges of the Special Criminal Court shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the JSC” (section 138(2)).

Considering the ostensibly heavy consultation the President must engage in with the JSC in the appointing process of Superior Court Judges, and the Judicial Secretary, it is imperative that the composition of this central body on judicial appointment be properly scrutinised. In both appointments to, and removals from, the JSC, the President is the predominant player. “The members of the Commission, other than the members referred to in subsection (a) and (f), shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice and subject to confirmation by the National Assembly” (section 145(2)).

Continuing with 145(6), there is yet again a clear demonstration of the President’s stranglehold over the JSC. A member can be removed “for any other cause”! In reality, there is no ex officio member of the JSC considering that even the representative of the Bar must be nominated by the Attorney General, a Cabinet appointee who holds her position at the exclusive pleasure of the President.

As for the member of the JSC to be “nominated by the National Assembly”, the Speaker, a Presidential appointee who heads the Legislature, is duty-bound to facilitate that transaction. For any Party member of the National Assembly thinking of opposing the President’s choice for membership of the JSC, there is the threat of expulsion, and the small matter of 91(1)(d) of the Constitution to exercise a sobering restraint on any potential wild journey from sheepish compliance with “orders from above”, a widely appreciated euphemism for Presidential directives outside the ambit of lawful commands. As for JSC members coming under sub-sections (a), (b), (c), and (e), of section 145, the President has undiluted power over their fate.

No sensible system can so thoroughly subject the Judiciary to such total control by the Executive! Clearly, our Constitution woefully failed to separate public power. Its design is maximally flawed if only because meaningful authority is almost exclusively lodged in the Executive at the expense of the other two branches. I accept that even where public power is properly balanced by the Constitution, there can be no serious answer to the thesis that law cannot self-implement. For efficacy, it must rely on a political system underpinned by the rule of law, i.e., by the separation of public power in a manner calculated to safeguard individual liberty. According to James Madison, a leading proponent of American federalism, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”.

Even without its inbuilt distortions, and regardless of how beautifully crafted and balanced, a Constitution that will continue to be either differentially applied, or not applied at all, presents a profound challenge to national cohesion and survival in that it serves the interest of a fraction of the overall polity, in this case the Executive. “At the heart of any failed state is a constitution that is not performing – either because the balances its drafters struck between competing demands on the document were wrong, or because the machinery, will and resources to make it work are woefully inadequate” (The Gazette 2012).

With all its flaws, the Constitution remains the supreme law of The Gambia. Poignantly, it also speaks directly to His Worship Jaiteh’s current difficulties. “In the exercise of their judicial functions, the courts, the judges and other holders of judicial office shall be independent and shall be subject only to this Constitution and the law and, except as provided in this Chapter, shall not be subject to the control or direction of any other person or authority” (section 120(3). Even on doctrinal considerations alone, the principle enunciated in section 120(3) is unassailable. The arrest, detention, and reported prosecution of His Worship Jaiteh triggered by Executive fiat are completely unlawful. Although apparently speaking in the language of civil process, the Constitution grants express immunity to a magistrate acting judicially from all process, civil or criminal. “A judge or other person exercising power shall not be liable to any action or suit for any act or omission by him or her in good faith in the exercise of his or her judicial function” (section 123). His Worship Jaiteh acted properly in terminating – on legitimate jurisdictional grounds – the further proceeding of IGP v Saikou Conteh, and Kebba Conteh, at Brikama Magistrates’ Court. Bundung Magistrates’ Court is the proper venue!

There is widespread public sympathy for His Worship Jaiteh but alongside this sympathy is palpable fear for position, for freedom, for life. In a way fear pervades the fabric of Gambian public life, and fear is a legitimate and agonising human concern. A few days ago, a fellow traveller in the world of ideas sent me Dictator, the very latest Robert Harris book on ancient Rome. At page 436, timeless wisdom on the inevitable if paralysing ultimate reason for being fearful: At first I thought I would never recover from Cicero’s death. But time wipes out everything, even grief. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that grief is almost entirely a question of perspective. For the first few years I used to sigh and think, ‘Well, he would still be in his sixties now,’ and then a decade later, with surprise, ‘My goodness, he would be seventy five,’ but nowadays I think, ‘well, he would be long since dead in any case, so what does it matter how he died in comparison with how he lived?’.

Students both of history and contemporary affairs would have recognised the futility of managing a country’s public life by force and fear. It is like the proverbial collapsing of the support of the sky. Everyone suffers. And for those who are disinterested in politics, and are busy accumulating wealth and the purely epicurean pursuits of life, I counsel that you look around the world for your timeless lessons. Ask the formerly untouchable, and, or, indifferent of Libya, of Iraq, of Syria, of Liberia, of Sierra Leone, others. Politics encompasses and reaches into every aspect of life.

However viewed, His Worship Jaiteh’s arrest, detention, and prosecution is an assault on his human rights and dignity, a glaring abuse of Gambian judicial process, a perversion of the rule of law, an affront to the principle of judicial independence.

I condemn it unreservedly!

As our able magistrates’ would say at the end of their rulings or judgments, ‘this is my perspective’ on the disgraceful saga of an exemplary judicial officer, His Worship Jaiteh!

Lamin J Darbo