Many Gambians, including yours truly, are grateful to the Chairman and his team for conducting the 2016 Presidential elections and ensuring that the will of the people was reflected in the outcome. It is however imperative that an institution like the IEC is fairly and constitutionally constituted. It is in this vein that I want to add my voice to the ongoing debate on the Chairman’s tenure.
It is now an established fact that Mr. Njie was first appointed to the IEC in 2006, and he resigned in 2007, thus ending his first term. It is important to argue here that Section 42 (4) of the 1997 Constitution clearly states that: “Subject to the provisions of this section, the members of the Commission shall be appointed for a period of seven years and may be re-appointed for one further term:”. Once Mr. Njie resigned from his position, his first tenure of no more than seven years was exhausted.
When Mr. Njie was reappointed in 2011 in accordance with section 42, it meant that his term, irrespective of position held in the Commission, was to end in March of 2018. Therefore , even though Mr. Njie was appointed as Chairman in April 2016, there is nothing in the 1997 constitution to suggest that when a Commissioner is promoted, his/her term starts anew. The contract that extended Mr. Njie’s term to 2023 is both erroneous and unconstitutional thus making it null and void.
It is therefore of paramount importance that the Attorney General properly advise both the President and the IEC in order to ensure that this important institution is properly and constitutionally constituted.
While we await the outcome of this issue, we fervently hope that the vacancies at the IEC ( Malleh Sallah, and eventually the chairman’s) will be filled by people of impeccable character. It is also imperative that political parties, civil society and citizens remain vigilant in ensuring that the President does the right thing, because our democracy and most importantly, our stability depend on it. Forward to a Gambia of undiluted liberty, dignity and prosperity.
Pasamba Jow is the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA), and the Co-host of the For The People By The People Show