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On 14th November 2019, Gambia’s Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) Chairperson, Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, announced that the Draft Constitution will be issued on 15th November 2019. During the announcement Chairperson Jallow called the final Draft Constitution Consultation Phase a “so called consultation”.
During his announcement he highlighted that “we will have another round of consultation with the public on the Draft Constitution, it is so called consultation but it’s more like informing the public of what is contained in the Draft Constitution so that people have an opportunity to ask us questions instead of us just letting them just know what is in the Constitution and also to hear from them in terms of how they think the Draft Constitution may be improved upon”.
The Chairperson’s use of “so called consultation” appeared to undermine the purpose of the final consultation phase which is expected to take cognisant of public opinions. This urged Gainako to wonder why the Chairperson would make such a statement in the first place. Unfortunately, after the announcement, there was no opportunity for the media to ask questions. However, during the launching press conference for the Draft Constitution, Gainako’s, Yusef Taylor, asked the Chairperson to clarify his statement and what it means for amendments to the Draft Constitution. You can listen to the audio report in the link below.
Gainako: “My first question is regarding your announcement yesterday when you said that this consultation phase is a so-called consultation, which you qualified. Is that indication that amendments from here moving forward will be very minimal?”
CRC Chairperson: “So, it is not the case that going forward there will be minimal amendments there may well be wholesale amendments to it. Like I said we have put this across based on our engagement with the Gambian people and other stakeholders to determine what really constitutes the wishes and aspirations of the Gambian People.”
“What we are looking forward to are constructive contributions from members of the public where they feel there are shortcomings in the draft and advise us, how best we can resolve those shortcomings. Going online or doing things on some other platform, merely criticising does not help you and does not help anyone. That’s just like grandstanding.”
According to the CRC Chairperson, “constitution drafting is not a secret. It’s not supposed to be a secret exercise because if that were the case, we wouldn’t be consulting people”. The actions of the CRC have been very transparent prior to the end of 2019.
The CRC announced an extension of the Draft Constitution Consultation Phase from 15th December 2019 to 31st December 2019. However, since the end of the year the CRC has allegedly extended their mandate until the end of January 2020 without informing the public, which is not transparent. Earlier this month Gainako reported that the final Draft Constitution will be published and submitted to the President in late January 2020.