By Flex Dan, @FlexDan_YT
Currently, The Gambia does not have a Vice President and if anything were to happen to the sitting head of state [touch wood]the next in line to be sworn in will be the Speaker of the house, Abdoulie Bojang of the APRC. Understandably imagining Abdoulie Bojang in State House remains a cause for concern for many even though pro-government supporters will struggle to admit this. One thing which cannot be denied is that there is a VERY SLIM possibility that The Gambia could fall back into the hands of the APRC from now until April 10th 2017.
Now Until April 10th?
The President has triggered clauses 97 and 99 of the Constitution. These clauses have a significant bearing on the National Assembly and the Speaker of the House inherently. According to section 97 of the Constitution, the National Assembly is dissolved the day before the first sitting of the National Assembly. This should now take place on April 10th and will most likely see Abdoulie Bojan replaced by the temporary understudy of the President until a VP is appointed.
A statement published on Foroyaa newspaper stated that the President has called for the first session of the National Assembly five days after the National Assembly elections. This was followed by the question “Does this mean that President Barrow intends to fast track his legal reforms?” The short statement reads.
“According to a National Assembly announcement, a proclamation by the president has indicated that the first session of the new legislature will be held a matter of days after the National Assembly elections, on 11 April 2017 to be precise. In short, while election will be held this coming Thursday, the first session of the next National Assembly will commence on the following Tuesday.”
Is the VP Position being retained?
The question remains however if the VP position has been retained for Fatoumatta Tambajang currently serving as the Minister of Women’s Affairs and “Supervising Vice President”. It’s common knowledge that President Adama Barrow announced that his VP will also be a woman, a move adopted from the previous APRC regime. If the VP role is actually retained for the dynamic Fatoumatta Tambajang who many have lauded as a key pioneer of the United Coalition, then the general public have every right to ask “how much longer will The Gambia go without a Vice President?”
- 19th January – Adama Barrow was sworn in as President
- 23rd January – Fatoumatta Tambajang appointed as Vice President
- 22nd February – February – Fatoumatta Tambajang appointed as Minister of Women’s Affairs and “Supervising Vice President”
- 6th April – National Assembly Elections
- 11th April – Scheduled First National Assembly sitting
Vacant VP Post, How Much Longer?
The question of how long the VP position could be retained for is an interesting one as an attempt to change the age limit was previously halted in its tracks for failing to go through the right procedures. This eventually led to the Judiciary taking the flak by admitting its failure to advise the government. Removing the age limit will extend the political careers of many veteran, heavy-weight politicians in The Coalition Government such as Fatoumatta Tambajang, OJ Jallow and Ousainou Darboe to name a few. This would mean that anybody over the age of 30 could be appointed as a VP and run for the highest office in subsequent Elections.
According to section 226 of the Constitution, it could take at least three months and ten days to amend the constitution. That means that the if the Bill is Gazetted on April 11th then the age limit could be amended by July 21st. Looking at other African countries we must all ask ourselves, “will extending the age limit help The Gambia avoid a potential Robert Mugabe situation?” Can a leader carry out their duties effectively over a particular age? I strongly believe that over 70 years of age the chances of staying awake during long meetings, travelling the world to represent the nation would be too much for most. At the ripe old age of 90, Robert Mugabe is still clinging on to power and is one of the oldest serving President’s in the world. Many have stated that perhaps he should be spending the two hours he can stay awake playing with his grandchildren. For now, The Gambia continues to wait for news of the next Vice President, because the best plan is one which prepares for the worst and hopes for the best. All this constitutional meandering could be resolved by simply appointing a qualified Vice President.
Relevant Sections of the Constitution
- The Vice President
(2) A person shall be qualified to be appointed as Vice-President if he or she has the qualifications required for the election of the President under section 62:
- Qualification for election as President
(1) A person shall be qualified for election as President if –
(b) he or she has attained the minimum age of thirty years but not more than sixty-five years
- Term of the National Assembly
(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the National Assembly shall stand dissolved on the day immediately preceding the day appointed in accordance with section 97 for the session of the next National Assembly.
- Sessions of the National Assembly
(1) The first session of the National Assembly after a general election shall be held in such place in The Gambia as the President may, by Proclamation, appoint.
- Alteration of this Constitution
(2) Subject to subsection (4), a Bill for an Act of the National Assembly under this section shall not be passed by the National Assembly or presented to the President for assent unless –
(a) before the first reading of the Bill in the National Assembly, the Bill is published in at least two issues of the Gazette, the latest publications being not less than three months after the first, and the Bill is introduced into the National Assembly not earlier than 10 days after the latest publication.
(b) the Bill is supported on the second and third readings by the votes of not less than three-quarters of all the members of the National Assembly.