Yes, the constitution is supposed to be the anchor to, and guarantor of, rule of law and democracy. And on paper, even North Korea’s constitution does guarantee some freedoms, and even provides for some rule of law despite what obtains. But don’t get overly excited and pin all your hopes on any new Gambian Constitution as if it will be some panacea, or all that a people need to guarantee rule of law and democracy.
A constitution means nothing if its very soul (the people and their government) consign themselves to selfishness, inertia, helplessness, greed, treachery, abuse and corruption when it comes to safeguarding the so-called “supreme law of the land.”
Giving Adama Barrow what he and those in his circle (cabinet) want today does not guarantee that he will not self-perpetuate tomorrow! We pretend as if this 1997 constitution wasn’t changed more than 50 times to suit the desires of Yaya! A constitution is only a guarantee to freedoms and democracy to the extent that the people are willing to defend it. Without the people to defend it (I don’t mean soldiers by the way), it is just a mere book cobbled together by powerful and influential people of varying interests.
Let’s not forget that we also had a constitution when Yaya was killing and raping our people. Guardians of the constitution chose not to stop his excesses and relentless assault on the constitution, eventually rendering it impotent! He killed when he wanted to, and stole when he wanted to. For good measure, he violated the very humanity of our sisters and mothers when he wanted to and many of us cheered and supported him because those mothers and sisters were not our mothers and sisters!
There was nothing written in that 1997 constitution that could stop Yaya when he wanted something! He first tinkered with the people’s will in 1996 and changed what the people wanted to what he wanted, and we all acquiesced and pretended all was well. We gave him a yard and he took a mile. We played dead! You think Adama will stop at an inch and not go for a mile? His record on his promises belies any trust in his word!
The fact that the draft constitution was unable to pass in parliament should be lesson enough that a constitution means little to a greedy leader and his cabinet hell-bent on imposing their wishes and interests on the people. When Yaya wanted anything changed in his constitution, he simply asked for it, and he had a readymade parliament willing to obey him and fulfil his sick desires whenever he asked. He also never ran out of spineless men and women donning colonial wigs and robes, who ensured he got what he wanted! He would change the constitution more than 50 times to suit his desires! We played dead! What makes you think Adama will not be able to do the same?
Adama Barrow doesn’t have that chokehold on parliament yet, but given the broken promises, greed and dishonesty he exudes, who really thinks he would not do the same to the Constitution as Yaya did, especially given that he surrounds himself with Yaya’s men? You see, everyone around Adama has an interest to protect. Rich businessmen conniving with Adama in the dark have an interest to protect. Ministers, many of the Perm Secs, many of the Directors, most leaders of the security services etc. all have an interest to protect. Just as it was in the days of Yaya, they’d do all they can to maintain the status quo because it serves their interest. That Gambians deserve better does not matter to them so long as they continue to do well with their families. It’s not as if many of us have learned anything! I mean we still embrace Yaya’s unrepentant enablers and our idea of reconciliation is appeasing APRC, but never taking the time to visit the Victims Center!
The fact that Yaya Jammeh lost “his” elections and used the most spineless of all human beings, “Sayyindi Jatta”, to subvert the will of the people, and render the constitution useless, should be lesson enough that when in the hands of greedy people, a constitution is not an obstacle to power grab when the greedy leadership wants more. Examples abound in Africa! And there’s something better than moss dolli at Steakhouse, it’s called “Moss doh mussa suur”. Adama Barrow and his coterie “dungne mussa suur!” There is a reason resigning from senior government positions in The Gambia is almost never heard of, especially in “ministerdom”, where consciences go to die.
The fact that the NIA/SIS and Jammeh’s other tools of abuse, routinely violated the constitutional rights of Gambians while many of us cheered and supported, should be lesson enough that no matter how great a constitution, it cannot guarantee your basic fundamental human rights when in the hands of a people who’d do anything to maintain power! How many Gambians died in the hands of Yaya’s security forces? Deyda was killed, Haruna Jammeh was killed, and our school children were killed. Many others were harmed for life! Yet those of us who were not directly affected played dead, cheering and dancing! Where was the constitution? It was there but had no guardians!
I’ve seen some of our folks saying a new constitution guarantees a New Democratic dispensation and rule of law. And I agree. On paper, the new constitution certainly does that. But Yaya’s so-called constitution also guaranteed that no Gambian should be arrested and detained in the manner that the NIA/SIS was conducting business. The constitution certainly didn’t allow for old women and men to be forcefully removed from their homes and forced to drink concoctions because they’re “witches”. The constitution did not say that you can send Jungulars to Mile Two and grab people and kill them because Yaya said so!
The constitution didn’t say what the NIA/SIS AND POLICE did to Solo Sandeng was legal. But what happened when he was killed? The constitution had no one to ensure it wasn’t violated by those charged with upholding it.
Even the lost African migrants who were on Gambian soil had rights: The right to life. And on paper, the constitution guarantees that too! And if this was to be upheld anywhere else on earth, it should be on another African soil. They were our brothers and sisters. But what did the guardians of Yaya’s constitution do even while Yaya himself violated his own laws and orders their killing? We pretended the lives of immigrants don’t matter as much even though many of us are also immigrants in other countries! Imagine if 44 Gambians were killed in America! You’d have seen the sunshine lions among us raising hell! But when it happened in The Gambia, we played dead!
Given all that we know of Adama Barrow, his betrayal of his own, his greed for power, penchant for abusing the law, do you honestly think that by giving him a yard, he would not grab a mile? Right now, Adama and his people are negotiating because their chokehold on parliament and the judiciary is not yet suffocating enough; when it does, they will do exactly as Yaya did: Manipulate the constitution to their desire! And the constitution will not be able to stop them, just as it didn’t stop Yaya! And given our history, most of us will play dead because “we have no choice”, and “we have to feed our families” and “that’s the way things were in those days” and “who dares challenge him” a