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How Supreme Court Ruling Restores Public Confidence in Fading ‘New Gambia’

The designation ‘New Gambia’ has been tainted. Hopes in the new government that was so high in the beginning has been heavily dropped. The euphoria has also disappeared drastically after several slip-ups by the government, especially in the human rights front, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, stifling of press, freedom of expression, sacking of ministers and public officials without explanations and serious corruption allegations. 

But the Supreme Court of The Gambia has restored some hopes and public confidence in the so-called new Gambia by handing down a landmark decision that involved the President of the republic, Adama Barrow.

Gambia’s chief justice Hon. Hassan Jallow

Dismissed nominated member of national assembly, Ya Kumba Jaiteh has challenged the president’s decision for arbitrarily revoking her nomination in 2019 before the country’s apex court, praying for the court to declare that, the revocation of her nomination was unconstitutional. 

Nearly a year after the case was filed, Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the termination of Ya Kumba Jaiteh through executive letter is unlawful, null and void, adding that the third defendant Foday Gassama’s nomination is unconstitutional, null and void. The Court also issued an injunction for Foday Gassama to desist from presenting himself as a nominated member of the National Assembly, anywhere.

It was largely believed that her nomination was revoked by the president because she was not speaking in his interest in the house – instead giving support to the United Democratic Party (UDP), the party Barrow originally belonged before their separation.

“I feel very happy about the verdict. This is a huge victory for our country and our democracy. Am so happy about this victory. It’s a good day for me and all lovers of democracy and the rule of law, Ya Kumba said in the post judgment. 

The Secretary General of the United Democratic Party’s (UDP) youth arm, Kemo Bojang said it’s a great day for the country and its people.

Kemo Bojang

“It’s a great day for us, a great day for The Gambia, a great day for justice and a great day for democracy,” He told The Chronicle. 

 “As an emerging democracy, the separation of powers is a sector that we would like to definitely push for. For us, Ya Kumba challenging the President in court shows that we will hold the judiciary at highest esteem,” he added.  

Kemo is pleased that the Constitution, yet to come into force though, has not given the president the power to nominate members of the national assembly.

The current Constitution has empowered the President to nominate five who are largely seen as his representatives in the assembly on top of the elected members of his or her party. This gives them the power to fire them to lose their seats. 

“This is a great day for the party. It means in the parliament we have another voice there, not just there for us but she will be there for the interest of The Gambia because Ya Kumba has always been instrumental in the National Assembly,” he said.

Sait Matty Jaw, lecturer at the University of The Gambia describes the supreme court decision as a victory for democracy.

Sait Matty Jaw

“This is a victory for democracy and rule of law. It shows that the apex court is interested in defending the constitution and most importantly emphasizing separation of powers. But most important today’s ruling is a clear testament of the independence of the judiciary post-Jammeh. Democracy and Gambia won today,” he told The Chronicle.

The former mayoral contestant for Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC), Bakary Badjie said this is a strong indication that there is hope in the country’s judicial system.

“Ya Kumba winning her case, especially against a decision taken by the President is a strong indication that, once compromised Judiciary has fully evolved into a true coequal branch of government. A branch that recognizes its independence and is ready to uphold the law no matter who is affected,” he told The Chronicle.

He emphasised that it is also a victory for The Gambia and her budding democracy. 

“While I congratulate Hon Ya Kumba Jaiteh and her legal team, I hope this becomes a lesson to the rest of the citizens that instead of resorting to acts that can be deemed a violation of laws or giving up, we can rely on a progressively independent arbiter to seek redress when we think an action of a government official is unconstitutional. There is no loser – neither President Barrow nor Hon Foday Gassama, we should rather see this ruling as a normal play out in a democracy.”

Ya Kumba Jaiteh at the supreme court building in Banjul after winning her case

This precedent could heighten the spirit in people whose rights were violated or will be violated in the future by taking similar route against government’s decisions they feel have disregarded the due process. 

Kebba Ansu Manneh contributed to this story.

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