Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I SALUTE GAMBIAN WOMEN

July 9, 2017

Author: Tha Scribbler Bah

By Tha Scribbler Bah

After the Eid-ul-Fitr feast, I wrote using this and other media to express the hope and potentials we have in our society. Our culture of being one people, one nation, and one Gambia expressed through the jovial relationships we have between tribes, ethnic groups, regional groups and even clans is a great recipe for peace and progress.

Today, we witnessed another aspect of this communalism when women in the ‘Kombo Tubab Bankoo’, or urban area if you like, desired to get rid of the huge piles of waste in our markets and streets and they were joined by many of the menfolk. Indeed this is worth celebrating and we need to commend our womenfolk.

What do we Learn from this Set-Setal?

It is said that cleanliness is next to godliness. In fact there is no godliness without cleanliness. Every religion stresses on cleanliness and if someone is desirous of being godly, most certainly such a person should be clean both physically and spiritually. Well we know that the outward appearance of a person affects his or her inner feelings. A clean person could therefore be said to be pure inwardly as well.

 

This makes cleanliness extremely important therefore. This cleanliness however, does not only have to be in the pefact but also the environment. A clean person cannot live in a dirty environment. We can see therefore that keeping our surroundings clean is of absolute necessity.

Who is responsible?

Primarily, we [the people] are responsible for the cleanliness of our bodies and our environment. If each one of us takes it upon him/herself to ensure that you and your surroundings are clean then the waste and rubbish can be at various locations for further discarding by the right authorities. It is here that the role of the government [through the municipalities] comes in.

It is the responsibility of the municipalities to ensure that the waste is collected periodically and disposed of properly keeping in mind the hygiene and health of the people. For this reason, we pay tax to the local government/municipalities. They collect this money to ensure that our waste is collected and disposed of. But because for the past 22 years we had a dictatorship and a repressive government that did not care much about the people, that money was politicized and used for other things. As such, the work for which the taxes were meant was not – could not – be done. Today, we are all facing the consequences.

The Kankfing Municipal Council under the leadership of Mayor Yankuba Colley wasted out resources on politics and some other nonessential ventures and now, we all have to suffer for it. This has to change. We need to start taking responsibility and doing what we are supposed to do.

I wrote once that a man once thought that I was a fool because he saw me carrying an empty can drink for a long distance. He asked why I didn’t just throw it away? I replied that I couldn’t because there was no dustbin around. He said I should throw it away anyway because everyone does it.

This is our problem. Many people do something so we also do it even if it is wrong. If we don’t stop that behavior, progress will be difficult.

We have to make a conscious, concerted effort to ensure a change in attitude. We didn’t only vote for a change of the name of our president, we voted for a system change which has to be all-pervasive. Everything has to change for us to register the progress we are yearning for.

It seems our womenfolk want to lead that change! That is a good thing. I salute you, O women of the Gambia!

Tha Scribbler

HELLO MR PRESIDENT… THE BUDGET…

July 6, 2017

Author: Tha Scribbler Bah

In the past few days, the National Assembly Members have been scrutinizing the 2017 Budget Estimates. Although I’ve not seen and perused the whole budget estimate, I have seen that the budget of the Office of the President has been reduced by D158 million while the Ministry of Agriculture has been reduced by D3 million.

Mr President, the others like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs been cut by D10 million. I wish to raise concerns over the amount of money reduced from the Ministry of Agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and majority of our citizens are engaged in agriculture. The advancement of agriculture translates into the advancement of the country.

Last week, while I was on a talkshow at Paradise FM Radio talking about the rainy season, some farmers called to express their desire to have assistance from the government. They said that as the last harvest was not good, they are even finding it difficult to buy rice at D1200 talk less of being able to buy a bag of groundnut seeds at D4000.00 with an additional D700 to be spent on fertilizer.

Naturally, if these farmers are not assisted by government, they will not be able to grow crops to the extent that will be beneficial to them and the country. The farmers are the ones who cultivate groundnuts, rice and other stuff that the Gambia exports in order for us to get foreign currency; but more importantly, it is the farmers who produce the food that we eat. As such, it is very important that we consider the farmers in the development agenda.

We commend the minister of finance and the National Assembly for a job well done. But we also call on them to even reduce more from the other ministries and the Office of the President but increase the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture.

We are calling on our youth to come home and stop the back way migration. In order to ensure that when they come home they stay, we need to provide them with jobs. The best way to do that [and the most feasible] is through agriculture. Let us invest in agriculture and education so that we will be able to stand on our own feet.

When we are able to do that then we can open ourselves to the rest of the world through foreign embassies. At the moment, we should think of reducing and/or amalgamating some of the embassies. That will cut cost. Use the money wisely for the priority areas.

It’s about austerity we say!

Tha Scribbler Bah

A Concerned Citizen

HELLO MR PRESIDENT…. ! Waqtu Ala! Waatoo Te Jee! Wahtu Amut!

June 29, 2017

Author: Tha Scribbler Bah

By Tha Scribbler Bah

I have repeatedly written about these things, but I will not tire of doing so until I see tangible steps. For twenty two long years we waited to offer our little advice in the way we are governed and did not have the opportunity. Thus you can understand the zeal and enthusiasm some of us feel to have the right, ability, and courage to put pen on paper and give our unsolicited advice and suggestion. So bear with us!

When on December 1 2016, the results showed that you had been elected into office, we were overjoyed. We were full of hope. We were full of enthusiasm and thought: Here comes the chance for us to make rapid progress and be counted among the comity of nations! We prayed, sang, hoped and cried out of overflowing exuberance. Alas! Some people are beginning to lose that glimmer of hope.

Firstly, let me start with the issue of the Vice President. You appointed the good lady Madam Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang and concerns were raised over her being over aged according to the Constitution. True to your nature of being a democrat, you rescinded the decision and appointed her as minister for Women’s Affairs and overseer of the Vice Presidency. This in itself was wrong because the vice presidency, being higher than the minister, it is hardly possible for her to oversee that position. But we bore it as we had seen that at least you are listening to the voices of the people. But then, on the 25th of June when you addressed the religious elders, you referred to her as ‘my vice president’. This is somehow reneging on your own word.

The youth need jobs. We expected to have a plan to solve the unemployment problem. The youth need jobs to sustain themselves and feed their families. We expected that by now there would be a development blueprint which will map out ways of giving them jobs. We are waiting for this development blueprint, Mr President.

Then comes the issue of the Constitutional review – and this is somehow pertinent to the issue of the vice president – one would have thought that by now the Constitutional review would be in high gear and underway. But things are quiet. Or is it that something is happening that we do not know about? What is the problem? Why aren’t we hearing anything about that?

Then comes the issue of Term Limits. We want to hear a clear and unequivocal pronouncement on the issue of term limits. This is important because we know that many a time in Africa, leaders have been known to ‘wakh wakheet’ on this issue.

There was talk since the time of the campaign and even later, of a Think Tank. We waited eagerly for this, thinking that that is how we are going to get the ideas to transform Gambia into a modern, advanced and democratic country. When therefore we heard the announcement that it will start or will be launched on a particular Monday, we were elated. That Monday has come and gone; meanwhile, we are yet to see anything Think Tank.

I think one of the things that should be addressed with utmost urgency is the issue of Constitutional reform. Every other thing will gradually fall into place if that problem is addressed. It is the substratum of all actions of the government and the citizens. Please, do something about that!

Have a Good Day Mr President….

Tha Scribbler Bah

A Concerned Citizen

GAMBIA’S CONTINUED POLITICAL CHAOS BUBBLES, A CAUSE FOR SERIOUS CONCERN

June 5, 2017

Coalition 2016 Team

By Yero Jallow

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” (Aba Lincoln, America’s 16th President).

Since Jammeh’s removal earlier on in February 2017, there has been some discontent, political chaos, and unrest, both within the coalition administration, and the disgruntled elements of the 22-year old dictatorship of the APRC, some form of trickledown effect seems to be the order of our political sphere. The existing environment is unhealthy for democratic dispensation and it comes with lasting consequential impact; far more destructive than the

political elements can calculate and visualize in their wishful daydreams. Unless and until there is a resolve, there are likely some serious Government and Citizenry missteps, which will be very detrimental to the Governor and the Governed, a relationship that needs special nurturing; that a leader was as good as he represents the plight of its citizens.

So far, throughout the Gambia, there have been some political fights, notably in Niamina, Basse, Farato, Kanfenda, Talinding, recently some bubbling up in Kanilai, and there are likely many more in the pipelines, as show of disappointment, which shouldn’t be treated lightly. Some of it very divisive and threatening to our national sovereignty; and some of it an exposure of citizens’ gullibility, unyielding to exercise of political maturity, and the silliness to buy into anything shiny. Sheer gullibility! In as upset as we can be about the past 22 years, there is no room for revenge and/or retribution. That is a serious failure and such growing mindset needs immediate therapy. The only way is justice and that requires a competent Truth and reconciliation commission, something that some of us have been advocating for over the years.

There are many that are pinning Foni in an ignorant way; they do not know what entails Foni, and what transformational history Foni had underwent, not to talk about Foni’s make up, and how Foni is equally a victim, like all other places in the Gambia. It is to be made very clear that Foni, hate it, like it, is a part of the Gambia, and will ever remain a part of the Gambia; that Jammeh and his criminal enablers and accomplices, some of whom are still walking scot-free and being paraded as good within a new realm, some selective amnesia from some higher animals within Orwellian “Animal Farm,” similar to what they called, “old wine in a new bottle” will not be Foni’s report card; that is the height of divisiveness and ignorance. I think Norwegian Saihou Samateh (Freedom for Saiks) did it for us on a good note, on his Face book post of June 1st/2nd 2017.The deliberate mistake that is being made is the bluff in talking cheap rubbish when some of these empty heads were accomplices to the 22-year old criminality when the going was tough, over a very, very long time. It is a serious misnomer on the generalization of Foni, which equals marginalization, part of the boils that the Gambia will have to deal with, stereotype, hate, anger, divisive traits, and some of these hypocritical groupings that are turning themselves to be hate mongers and community policing agents. Marginalization and alienation of any one region and/or people by default of their geography, identity, and/or beliefs, is unacceptable, and again just get it once and for all. It is both a sign of lacking substance and recipe for divisiveness. The open provocation must be an element dealt with the soonest if we really need to progress. It is low life, low standard, and the easiest way to fail. I leave that to God, and Time (the old arbiter of all matters) to prove it. Lest we blindly and intentionally ignore, Fonis’ greatest sons and daughters died and many others continue to fight for Gambia’s liberation; therefore the rationale in marginalization is both a demonstration of poor assessment, a serious miscalculated misnomer, one that likely creates the kind of political unrest recently seen, due to the danger that it puts citizens in. When you do not know, it is better to measure up, as some of the open clamoring has severe consequences. Anyone that committed any crime, the law should be employed and it doesn’t matter where you are from.

We really need to go to sleep not being interested in pleasing pleasantries for some bone crumbs, positions, and/or expectation of being some person’s good book, especially when intention to dissect is based on clear conscience. We need to go to sleep thinking of Gambia’s generations yet unborn. Most of the time, it is disappointing about blind loyalty when loyalty should be for country. That is it; and competitions should be based on merit and competence. No one should be afraid of such competitions of competence and there is no need to go through the back door. The ugly and divisive politics where some are looking for more enemies and division, is not only uncalled for, it is not helpful for our existence. I have asked people to produce the numbers of all those people that served and were victimized by Jammeh both at the civil service and the operational criminal gang, proportion that, and realize that Gambia’s committed crimes and enablers are from all geographical places in the Gambia, with Foni being more victimized than any other region, and lesser representation in Government.

Straight forward to the point, I condemn the Killing of Mr. Haruna Jatta in Kanilai, and I condemn any destructive riots and creeping hate and divisiveness. I also petition the Governor and the Governed, all equal stake holders, to investigate thoroughly, rather than jumping to conclusions based on bias and emotions, in ways that further entrenches our country into political chaos; and there is no room for cheap and irresponsible comments. Lawlessness and negligence is neither acceptable from the Governed nor the Governor. ECOMIG’s shooting of Mr. Jatta should be condemned, investigated, and the law employed accordingly to resolve the matter. One would expect a body like ECOMIG, is really prepared for such, within their mandated operations. We do not set wrong precedencies and Gambia’s Police Force should be equipped to handle such internal disputes.Contrary to what is being argued openly by many that these demonstrators were armed, that hasn’t been seen in the video footages, and tons of them are online. It is not honest to be dishonest in such matters as an easy pass of scoring points, it simply won’t work. Some of divisive tone needs to washed with soap, we do not need a divided Gambia, and citizens must not allow anyone to divide them. Among other things, the reason for the protest is that they (the protesters) want Jammeh back, for ECOMIG to leave, and safeguarding their locality, due to tenseness of the ugly politics. I think the courts are a way of resolve and any citizen that feels violated in some way can seek redress by open protest without destruction of life, property, and infrastructure, and also through Gambia’s court systems. The law is our arbiter and no one can take the law into their hands.That is for both the Governor and the governed. Let us remember, some life was lost, in the case of Mr. Haruna Jatta, a Gambian Citizen we are told, and this was not through any courts. That is a dangerous precedence. In as much as we despise any rallies of destructive protest, we also detest the killing of any Gambian, and we must not be economical in its condemnation. That is a no, a no go area, it cannot be accepted, encouraged, and/or even seen as close to resolve. We have run through situations similar in the past in the case of the student demo of April 10th/11th 2000, and the then Vice President made such similar irresponsible comments on National TV. That comment to date, remains a crime within midst. We also lost Solo Sandeng in a protest, though the political set ups are different. The dossier submitted in Deyda’s death, was one where the Governor (the Criminal APRC), lost credibility, blaming Deyda for his own death. These should have all served as lessons to act on. The emotional haste reactions and open attention-clamoring is a recipe for political turmoil and failure, and such is unacceptable and criminal in the eyes of the law, it combines lies, bias, and criminality intentionally.

Jammeh’s 22-year Government is gone. They were long since done and finish. They didn’t go down into ugly history without engagement from concerned people; they ignored and acted with arrogance and criminality. Now all those that committed crimes and are in complicit must be cleared through a competent court and/or Truth and reconciliation commission. They must too, agree to face the full wrath of justice. Barrow’s 3-year administration will also be done one day. He is advised in good faith to keep to his three years as signed on the MOU and allow elections take place, with the help of the national assemble amendment. He is also advised to heed to public outcry on quickly appointing a VP as it stipulated in Gambia’s constitution, failure of which his administration will be threading on slippery slopes. If any crimes and/or injustices are committed under Barrow’s watch, they will also be tabled before the law one day, when most of the so-called friends ala opportunists will in fact be the first to disown you, just like Jammeh has been disowned . That is why any wise leader will cut off the blind loyalty, the praise-singers most of whom are only after their personal interest, and try to reign with humility and substance under a law. The drunkenness that comes with power and the excesses is something that any leader should look at the mirror for. That is part of what the great Madiba left with us. African leaders especially and their followers must draw lessons. We must not fail and/or divide our citizens as a way of creating leadership vehicles (palass) selfishly. That is very unpatriotic and unfair to citizens, for anyone paid from tax payers’ money to do. The combined force that sent Jammeh packing is not gone anywhere, and citizens will continue the engagement for country and countrymen. Long Live the Gambia and her sovereignty!

MANUFACTURING A CRISIS IN THE GAMBIA

June 5, 2017

Entrance to Kanilai

By Saul Saidykhan

I just finished reading a shocking article on Facebook in which the author seems to indirectly blame everyone but the true culprits for the violence that happened in Foni three days ago: the uncouth and parochial-minded followers of Yahya Jammeh in his native village of Kanilai. To begin with, the protest wasn’t spontaneous. It was planned by ethnic militants for a while, and they made no secret of their intention to be confrontational, as some of their videos in response to the Asset Forfeiture Order against Yahya Jammeh suggested. The choice of Kanilai isn’t surprising either, because during the Jammeh tyranny, Kanilai was Foni writ large in terms of undue influence and out-sized unearned privileges in The Gambia. Kanilai was Foni and Foni was Kanilai. And all manner of lies was used to try to justify or rationalize the disadvantaging of other parts of the country. I wrote severally on this subject many years ago.

 The one thing that has stunned me throughout the Jammeh madness is the utter lack of courage of the Foni intelligentsia (forget the politicians, the late Shingle Nyassi did an honorable job politically, but that’s about it) because of its failure to stand up to Jammeh WHEN IT MATTERED and let the world know he doesn’t speak for Foni. This did NOT happen! Instead, what we saw is a general embrace of a murderous kleptocrat by the people of Foni. That he was embraced by all ethnicities within Foni, or had company and enablers among all those groups does not make this failure any less shameful or egregious. It also stands in sharp contrast to his predecessor’s era. This is precisely why I find it a little too convenient that anyone would now play up this unnecessary tragedy as if it’s a case of innocent Foni victims against a marauding government. That narrative is far from the reality. Some of the agitators have been posting both audio and video messages on different fora inciting a rebellion for a couple of months now. Yet the legitimacy of this government is not in doubt.

 Given what Yahya Jammeh has put our country through, it is simply stunning to see or hear some of the callous things many of his people say about those glad to see his back. Even the images we keep seeing from outside the court house in Banjul with his supporters cheering on accused cold-blooded murderers, and mocking the relatives of their victims is jarring enough. How much more insensitive and uncivilized can anyone be? I hear the clamor for Reconciliation, but how does one reconcile with someone who has not only unjustly wronged you, but sees nothing amiss about what they did or given the opportunity, will do so again?  What kind of ridiculous Reconciliation game are we engaged in here?

 It’s time to draw a line in the sand for the crazy followers of Yahya Jammeh! They need to understand a few things: The days of silly hedonism at Gambian public expense for one SPECIAL part of our country is gone for good. As is lawlessness, and infantile projection of ethnic-chauvinism. More importantly, they need to stop pushing their luck!

 The Barrow administration needs to buckle up, and get serious on all fronts! It needs to slow down on this Reconciliation chimera, and go on the offensive against Jammeh’s allies who are still in important positions in the military, judiciary, and the Civil Service, as well as Business. As long as such elements continue to wield influence in The Gambia, this government will continue to be frustrated and sabotaged at each turn in the pursuit of its goals. (Take a page from the experience of the ANC government in SA in its Land Reform agenda: the very people publicly praising the government for being reconciliatory, are the ones privately sponsoring Land Reform opponents to frustrate government in every conceivable way. Over 25 years after Apartheid ended, less than 20% of land has been transferred to the targeted communities. Conveniently, the same people, in tandem with their international allies, blame ANC government corruption and incompetence for the slow progress of the Land Reform agenda, not the devious machinations they engage in secretly.) The Barrow administration need to be cognizant of being undermined in a similar fashion which will inevitably, lead to it losing credibility.

 The government needs to move quickly to pursue justice in ALL cases beginning with the November 11th, 1994 Yundum Camp murders. Internationally, the government has some options on Jammeh himself. It could petition the New York State Attorney General or the Manhattan District Attorney to UNSHIELD the indictment in the case of the former Guinea Bissau naval Commander Bubo Na Tchuto who is currently in prison in New York. This man is known to be a major partner of Yahya Jammeh in the international drug trafficking ring in our region during his time in office. Countless Gambian military and NIA officers can testify to this. As can the CIA. Plus, the Guinean himself is believed to have mentioned Jammeh during his interrogation by American authorities which was the main reason they sealed the indictment at the time (Jammeh being a sitting president.) The Barrow administration now has the opportunity to learn the truth. Also, the government can invite British Investigators who discovered $2 Billion worth of drugs in Bonto several years ago back in the country to conduct a more thorough investigation as to the Who’s Who in that case. One of these two planks would at the very least knock some sense into Jammeh to call off his goons, and who knows, if we send someone with balls to make our case, he could spill the beans on the Codes to the Panama loot. By the way, everything I’ve heard suggests, the Panama stash wasn’t his idea at all. It is in the best interest of Gambians for the Barrow government to get Jammeh to talk. But first, it needs to put the screws on him.

 In terms of securing the territorial integrity of the country, if left with no other option, it should use whatever force is necessary to enforce its mandate ALL OVER THE COUNTRY

GAMBIA: A BETTER USE FOR THE 50 MILLION DOLLARS CHINESE GRANT

June 3, 2017

Ousainou Darboe, President Barrow and Chinese diplomat. Photo credit: Mantankara Konko

By Saul SaidyKhan

To begin with, a “Grant” in international relations or Finance is a Gambian’s dream: a gift that does not have to be paid. Almost every grant comes with some string – stated or implied. But that’s a different subject altogether. For now, taking the Chinese grant at face value, essentially, The Gambia has been offered $50Million Dollars to use as it deems fit.

 Two weeks ago, in mid-May 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Ousainou Darboe signed a contract (on behalf of the Government of The Gambia) in line with a Chinese grant for the construction of an International Conference Center in The Gambia. It turns out the project had been negotiated and sealed by the government of Yahya Jammeh in September 2016. President Barrow, who witnessed the signing, noted that his government gives priority to energy, farming, and healthcare among other areas. Anyhow, by signing the contract last month, the Barrow administration has effectively ratified Jammeh’s decision.

 Given The Gambia’s current state, it boggles the mind trying to figure how anyone can place an International Conference Center among the top dozen list of priorities facing the country. I’m now certain leaders are not only limited by their innate abilities, but by the quality of advice available to them.

 So, in two years, we’ll have a world class International Conference Center in The Gambia. Best case scenario: we’ll host a dozen international conferences a year which might be attended by a few thousand people. Employment opportunities will be TEMPORARY, and unpredictable. On the flipside, if I know my country, within two years, lack of maintenance combined with energy deficiency will become visible on the facility. And things could only go downhill.

 Alternatively, instead of an International Conference Center, we could use our $50 Million Dollars gift to finally build a world class hospital. Imagine a 3,000-bed capacity modern hospital with a separate Medical, Dental, and Vision section located in the Western Region (I shall get to why government needs to STOP putting Gambia’s meagre resources in a high-risk DEATH TRAP island call Banjul.) Such a hospital will provide thousands of PERMANENT jobs (doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff,and  security.) More importantly, this new hospital will not only help close the gaping hole in this critical area, it will help train generations of healthcare professionals in The Gambia.

 Towards that training goal, we have a powerful tool to help us recruit foreign volunteer professional trainers lying in plain sight. When Jammeh spent $25 Million Dollars to host the AU Summit, he built 53 villas to lodge the African Heads of State. Today, officially, all these villas are vacant and unused. However, anyone who knows us Gambian men knows WHO uses these villas often and for WHAT purpose. 

 If this government would take my advice, they could put these villas to better use. If they build a hospital, they can use the AU villas to entice seasoned medical doctors and professors from cold climates around the world to sunny Gambia. In exchange for free room and board at these villas near the Atlantic, the doctors can work for free at the new hospital, and teach at Gambia’s Medical School. I will bet anything that the response will be overwhelmingly positive. There are many experienced medical professionals in cold climates who would be amenable to living in a sunny, peaceful place on West Africa’s Atlantic coast. Why not exchange free lodging for knowledge and skills transfer? (Currently, I wouldn’t trust a Gambian-trained doctor with my dog’s life much less my loved one’s. Neither did Yahya Jammeh despite all his bragging about the hospitals he built.)  This way, we’ll kill three birds with one stone: 1. Provide world class quality medical care to Gambians 2. Train Gambian Medical students to World class standards and 3. Make use of the AU villas by luring the type of people The Gambia desperately needs.

 The choice between the International Conference Center and the 3,000-bed hospital in terms of benefit couldn’t be clearer. Why can’t we be more creative or imaginative? Or am I missing something…

THE CHIEF JUSTICE SPEAKS FOR ME

May 30, 2017

Gambia coat of arms

By Foday Samateh

The most important news in The Gambia since the election happened last week. It’s not the Attorney General’s bombshell news briefing on the freezing of 88 bank accounts, 131 landed properties, and 14 companies belonging to or directly associated with the exiled despot. Nor was it Lawyer Awa Sisay Sabally’s applause-worthy call on President Barrow to appoint without any further delay a Vice President. It was something that didn’t receive the same level of attention as the above. Nonetheless, it was the ultimate news of this political transition.

At the national stakeholders’ conference on justice and human rights at Kairaba Beach Hotel, Chief Justice Hassan Jallow affirmed that, in the light of many amendments that could affect the 1997 Constitution (the current Constitution), the state intended to draft a new Constitution. One news outlet quoted him as saying, “There is a strong case for the drafting of a new constitution under the leadership of a new group of experts set up by the state.” Reading the words that are in bold (the emphasis are mine), I was overcome at once with ecstatic relief. With a gleeful heart and bated breath, I crowed, “Hallelujah! God bless the Chief Justice!”

Given the defects of the current Constitution and the deliberate dilutions it suffered at the behest of the upended regime, the need to draft a new one should have been an obvious foregone conclusion. The fact that it hadn’t been until the Chief Justice’s revelation should have been the biggest scandal for the new government. In the run-up to the election, the Coalition included a constitutional review in its reform agenda. The Memorandum of Understanding didn’t expound on what this ambiguous term would entail. Two things, however, implied an overhaul.
First, the central agreement of the Coalition was that their candidate for President would serve only three years in office to carry out a transition of democratic reforms, followed by a fresh election. Since that candidate was to be elected for a five-year term as required under the current Constitution, the cleanest, and probably the most legitimate and justifiable, way to accomplish this agreement would be to draft a new Constitution that would come into force in three years. With the new Constitution adopted in three years, the current one would cease to be in existence, and the current five-year term of the President would be curtailed to three years without anyone having to engage in any convoluted tampering with an already battered Constitution.

Second, almost all Coalition figures and their outspoken allies during and after the election kept promising how governing would be different in the third republic. And right after Barrow was sworn into office, the new administration began claiming that we are now in the third republic. To the extent that it matters, we aren’t in the third republic. We are still in the second republic. Barrow is the second president of the second republic. A new Constitution will usher in the third republic. An ordinary transfer of power through an election under an existing Constitution cannot ring in a republic. Otherwise, the United States would have surpassed 40 republics when it’s still in its first.

Those factors notwithstanding, the Coalition turned out to have something different in mind. Barrow, at his first press conference, after he took office, was asked if the new government planned to write a new Constitution. He responded that they would only make amendments to the current one. You can imagine my disappointment. (For me, replacing the current Constitution with one that’s far superior must be the dominant issue of this transition.)
Why the Coalition never called for a new Constitution outright defied logic. I became upset at the body as a whole, but more so at its two most influential wings. Though several opposition parties had come together to form the Coalition, the key players in real terms were UDP and PDOIS. They are also the only opposition parties with substantive but clashing positions on the current Constitution. Their rivalry over it began from the beginning of the second republic. To PDOIS, the current Constitution is essentially good, if not great. In or outside of the Coalition, PDOIS, to my knowledge, hasn’t called for a new Constitution. The party can always provide a long list of great provisions in the current Constitution in their defense of it. Nevertheless, all in all, they are wrong, but at least consistent.
To UDP, on the other hand, the current Constitution was to all intents and purposes the despot’s Constitution. All the reason their failure to call for a new Constitution demands more than the charge of inconsistence. The party’s taciturnity on the matter borders on hypocrisy. It’s rendered more unconscionable by the fact that while Barrow technically ran as an independent, his political home remained UDP. This, in addition to the fact that they were the largest party in the Coalition, gave them more sway on this question. So I was left confounded by their seemingly newfound faith in a set of amendments to remedy the current Constitution. I even wondered whether gaining power finally has given them second thoughts about reining in the imperial presidency and establishing a democracy on separation of powers with checks and balances. Why would they entrust the President with powers that they rightly didn’t want to be vested in the despot? I wondered still further if they now disagree with Lawyer Lamin J. Darboe’s erudite observation that, “Undoubtedly, [the current] 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. It has no place in a proper democracy!”

The case against amendments alone goes beyond the stubborn fact that too many amendments needed to be carried out. The most obnoxious parts that must be expunged from the nation’s Constitution — paragraphs 11, 12, 13 and 14 of Schedule 2 (the so-called Indemnity Clause) — are themselves indemnified from any amendments either by the National Assembly or by a referendum thanks to paragraph 17 of the said Schedule. These paragraphs confer absolute blanket amnesty on the despot and the entire regime of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) for any decision or action they took during the military rule, which might include stealing millions from our national treasury and engaging in extra-judicial killings. Hence my utter disappointment when the Coalition stated their position on the current Constitution. It’s all too clear that amendments alone wouldn’t suffice. They wouldn’t and couldn’t undo these monstrosities of Schedule 2.

The most obscene thing about the referenced sections of Schedule 2 is its arrogance and moral turpitude. The military junta overthrew the elected government, albeit an ineffectual one. They launched multiple Commissions of Inquiry into that government in the name of “accountability, transparency, and probity.” They made so much noise about “rampant corruption” that had occurred in that government. And then, lo and behold, they turned around saying never mind all that. All Presidents, National Assemblies, and Courts must hereby be denied forever the legal authority to do to the junta what the junta did to the preceding government. Why wouldn’t they want their own example be applied to them? Why what’s good for the goose not good for the gander?

It should be noted that advocating for a new Constitution mustn’t be misunderstood as arguing for the entire current Constitution to be junked. Just as the current one largely kept the framework of the 1970 Constitution and still contained significant changes, the new one will emulate similar but nobler objective. I may even hazard a guess that the new Constitution will preserve about 70 percent of the current one. Properly done, however, the 30 percent difference will make a world of real difference between constitutional democracy and constitutional dictatorship. Let’s consider the case of the Chief Justice as an example. Whether one liked the appointment of Hassan Jallow or not, we must all bear in mind that just as Barrow appointed the justice all by himself under the current Constitution, Barrow can remove the justice anytime all by himself. The constitutional requirement that the President must consult the Judicial Service Commission is a bureaucratic waste of time by way of meaningless rigmarole. The Commission’s advice is, strictly speaking, a matter of mere formality. It’s non-binding in any shape or form. Is this what we want? For one person, however conscientious that person may be, to have that much power? And we wonder why we don’t have an independent judiciary? Presidents mustn’t consult at all any Commission whose authority is subservient to the President’s. The consultation regarding the appointment of judges should be made to the National Assembly and the National Assembly’s vote to approve or disapprove should be binding. And judges must not be removed except by impeachment for unlawful conduct. That way, judges cannot be appointed or removed whenever a President feels like it.

Even if we feel rest assured that Barrow and future Presidents would never be anything like the despot, we shouldn’t leave so much of our fate at the mercy of their discretions. For instance, Barrow’s failure or refusal to appoint a Vice President after four months in office may not be violating the letter of the Constitution, but it’s totally contrary to its spirit. It’s also not just a cavalier attitude toward complying with the law, it puts the line of succession to the highest office in the land at risk for no good reason. Worse still, appointing someone who, for whatever unfair and undemocratic requirements, is disqualified from holding the office of Vice President to oversee the Vice Presidency isn’t only a display of insouciance toward the Constitution, but also an apparent act of violating the oath to uphold the Constitution without fear, favor, affection or ill will.

Talking about not trusting people in power to always do the right thing, one of my longstanding beefs with the current Constitution is the National Assembly’s ability to amend the so-called non-entrenched clauses. Like elsewhere, our experience has shown that politicians always claim to be acting in the national interest, but, far too often, they behave on partisan motives. Even when they truly act in the national interest, such actions are hardly divorced from their partisan interests. Politicians will always be politicians. They will almost always use whatever power is at their disposal to advance their own partisan interests. The amendments to the current Constitution proved that the drafters were wrong to assign the National Assembly the power to amend the Constitution save the entrenched clauses. And the entrenched clauses cannot remain functionally sacrosanct if their force can be undermined by the amendment or abrogation of related, supporting, or underlying clauses. As the supreme law of the land, everything in the Constitution should be deemed consequential. If they are not, they shouldn’t be in the utmost law. If they are, they should be beyond the grasp of the momentary passions or partisan motives of politicians. Yes, the power to make laws is invested in the National Assembly. But the one law they must not make is the law that gives them the power to make laws. The entire Constitution must be entrenched. No clause or paragraph or even punctuation mark must be amended without a referendum. The people must have their say. That’s the only assurance to protect the Constitution from being perverted by self-serving, power-grabbing politicians.

There are many other reasons to draft a new Constitution. Among them, the current one is poorly put together. It lacks the coherence and elegance a great national document deserves. To back up this contention, I must rely once again on Lamin J Darboe’s perceptive conclusion: “In The Gambia, [the current] Constitution is devoid of serious artistic beauty due mainly to the apparent absence of any real intention to ground the polity in an objectively verifiable rule of law. This may be attributable to the fact that the political midwives of the Constitution were also present at the critical juncture of its creation. As they were interested, had absolute power, and wielded the veto, the resulting product was way short of the minimum standards a document like a national constitution must acquire to pass the requisite test of balance and neutrality, a document, so to speak, that can serve as a fitting legacy for posterity.”

It’s, therefore, gratifying to know that the new government had a change of heart. It’s also reassuring that the source of the news was the Chief Justice. And even more reassuring, he did more than share word about the plan to draft a new Constitution. He justified both the necessity and wisdom of such an undertaking. The importance of this is just too great. Monumental, in fact. That’s why the Chief Justice spoke for me. We now have the chance to establish the third republic that seeks that elusive equilibrium between security and liberty. We must institute a government that has all the power to protect the rights of the good folks of Kiang. At the same time, that government must have no power to set aside at will the rights of the good folks of Kiang. Then, we can celebrate our Constitution and our Republic.