A Republican Constitution for The Gambia
Abuja/Nigeria Trip – Did O/Darbo & Co. Know Independent, Democracy & Republic?
The election victory of December 2016 and The Prior Agreements of The Coalition 2016 offered Gambia golden opportunities of ‘a people-centered political correction’. Mr. Darbo freed from Mile 2 Prisons singlehandedly destroyed our common-hopes of making Gambia ‘a functioning institutional democracy’. Only after he was fired he tried to walked-back what he meant. Too late too little! Dr. Barrow is now a fully-grown dictator who may stop at nothing for his political survival.
Mr. Darbo, the most powerful politician in early 2017 and as well one of the renounce legal minds our land ever produced could have led a people-centered constitutional development and governance re-organization but choose otherwise. Mr. Darbo’s preoccupation was establishment of UDP hegemony rather than a functioning democracy we yawned for almost quarter of a century. He overtly and/or covertly overly lessened the role of key figures of The Coalition 2016 in everyday governance decisions. The height of that petty political hypocrisy was the so-called ‘tactical alliance’. Mr. Darbo wasn’t concern with constitutional provisions such as the notorious ‘Public Order Act and/or the draconian media laws, some of which he spent 100s of man-hours at court demonstrating their unconstitutionality. Instead, Mr. Darbo and his party at the National Assembly amend constitutional age ceiling/floor for President and Vice President and as well lowered election registration fees. All those changes have direct bearing to Mr. Darbo as an individual and his political party.
A year or so later the National Assembly allowed Dr. Barrow to commissioned CRC to write a replacement constitution. This was wrong and unconstitutional. The Constitution of The Gambia is owned by The Sovereign People of The Gambia. Neither Adama Barrow nor the National Assembly were elected to write a new constitution. Equally the 1997 Constitution has no due expiration date. Only the people of Gambia have absolute authority to change a constitution (in part and/or whole) at any time of their choosing. No government (and/or administration) has any constitutional authority to replace the constitution. At most a government/administration may amend none entrenched clauses/provisions. Even that authority was ill-placed. Any law changeable solely by National Assembly vote should come up as Act of National Assembly. At the appropriate times we will talk about ‘what I call the noisy provisions’ in the 1997 and CRC Draft that made up over half of the entire document. They’re sources of serious constitutional instability. It is very important we make distinction between Constitutional Laws and Laws of The Gambia/Acts of National Assembly. By definition constitutional amendment, regardless of the importance of that clause/provision by simple vote of National Assembly is as good as no constitution.
The sovereign people of The Gambia never required Dr. Barrow to write a new constitution. He did not seek their authority to initiate one. My guess is, he assumed because National Assembly enact a law giving him authority makes it right and/or constitutional. If so, he (Barrow) is wrong and they (NA) are wrong as well. It is not the job of a president and National Assembly to write a constitution. The government (and/or administration) of The Gambia is a limited government. That means their only authority is as prescribed by the constitution. Anything not allowed by the constitution cannot and/or shouldn’t be done. That is explicitly and/or implicitly left for the sovereign people.
For Mr. Darbo and co. to go to Abuja/Nigeria to discuss The Constitution of our Republic with a private citizen of that country, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan is a fundamental lack of understanding (and/or disregard) of our National creeds of INDEPENDENT DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (IDR) but also self-serving egos blindfolded by hunger for power and greed. These words (IDR) are not in our name for decorative purposes. These are the bedrock of our national civics (call it Civics 101) and national identity as a people. Consequently, they should inform The National Republican Constitution.
Independence (I) is self-determination, means the people of Gambia decide on everything Gambia – not Nigeria (and/or a Nigerian), not UK (and/or Queen Elizabeth II). Democratically that citizen decision-making is done through secret-ballot – not opinion polls, not by political parties and/or their supporters. Obviously, Gambians gave no role to Ousainou Darbo, Mamma Kandeh, Ismaila Ceesay, Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, etc. to decide what should and/or shouldn’t be our New Constitution. They could have won some sympathy had they crisscross village bantabas throughout our land sincerely working with our people in our quest for a constitution that institute functioning institutional democratic governance.
Republic (R) establish ownership of state. The people of The Gambia are the sovereign owners of Gambia. Each citizen has equal equity in state regardless of wealth, education, religion and/or entrusted public office. We’re equal at state – period. A National Republican Constitution is a solemn property of the sovereign people contracting elected representatives to governance as such. The CRC legislation and processes were unconstitutional and undemocratic. Certainly, in quality, the draft CRC constitution is no better than the one it tries to replace. Ousainou Darbo, Mamma Kandeh, Ismaila Ceesay, and the other guy (I don’t know his name) are only for 4 citizens of the Gambia. They cannot speak for Gambia in almost nothing much less a constitution that’s right or wrong for us. Goodluck Jonathan is a Nigerian – he doesn’t even count. My honest opinion, these men are either too ignorant not knowing basics of IDR (essentially national civics) or too blindfolded by egos to go to Nigeria for this purpose. I didn’t listen/read PDOIS reason(s) for not attending but I hope at minimum these facts are among – otherwise they aren’t better.
Democracy (D) is people self-govern. Electing representatives is only a practical mechanism to have a workable system. The elected representatives are explicitly and implicitly not given every authority. Ultimately the people are the supreme authorities and powers. Adopting the precedence set by AFPRC is neither democratic nor constitutional. The National Assembly created a law they did not have authority to do so. Adama Barrow blindly followed by creating CRC because he’s largely ignorant of the roles/powers of president and it serves his political interests. The planned end-referendum is simply an attempt to legitimize an illegitimate act. To be democratic this process should start with the people and end with the people with government limited to only facilitation – that includes public financing. The December 2016 election victory provided our nation one of a kind opportunity – a people platform. It was an opportunity that has national features to democratically and constitutionally develop a constitution and as well nationally re-organize governance outside of narrow political party lenses. Mr. Darbo, said no and ready to drag anyone to court who insisted on such a planned reform. For me this is an unforgivable political sin against our nation.
Understanding the principles and ideals of democracy are imperative. Knowing precedence (if you like the order of operations or importance) is also a must. More important though is for society as a whole particularly people in authority to not just understand/know but appreciate, respect and value these principles and ideals. Without such general societal discipline/acceptance starting with people in authority democracy doesn’t work. Unless democracy is understood/accepted it really doesn’t matter how elegant a constitution and/or laws we may be. This is why is not only disappointing but very concerning to see these men on to Nigeria for the constitution of Gambia. Where’re independence, democracy and republic in their actions?
My fellow citizens we blew the golden opportunities of 2016/17. Better late than never. With citizen pressure we can sincerely go back to the drawing board. Mr. Darbo is not and cannot be a trusted leader to democratize Gambia.
Our Goal (who am I not speaking for with this goal????) ‘A FUNCTIONING INSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC’
Three (3) basics are required (1) A Republican Constitution (2) Re-organization of Governance (3) Re-education/organization/reorientation of our people. The 1st 2 naturally feed into each other and the 3rd a lifelong effort to enable/empower our people to take charge. It’s time to end re-colonization by our own brothers and sisters. Immediate required tasks:
- To democratically and constitutionally craft Republican Constitution, among others provide for Central Government at Banjul, Regional Governments/region, District Governments/district and Municipalities/settlement or joint. That constitution will appropriately apportioned roles/scopes of governance among the above. That Constitution will set requirements for each elected function, term limits, etc. Set the broad parameters. A broad proportional revenue allocations, etc.
- Election administration decentralized – Regional/Deputy, District Commissioners of election elected on term limits
- Policing Regionalized – right- sized, right-trained & right-equipped; National Guard of 500-1000 officers for presidential security to help in criminal investigations, etc.
- Unadulterated Civic education as certification requirements from Primary 1 to Undergraduate School at a University in The Gambia
Of course, none of these are full-proof to human vices especially to authoritarianism. However, compartmentalization of authority tends to minimize absolutism. In addition, the benefits of such arrangements are immediate and direct that hopefully will motivate our people to stand against distant intrusions and containing those within.
Fellow citizens we can do this……
To The Gambia Ever True
By Burama Jammeh