The Republic of The Gambia gained independence in 1965 from Great Britain. That same year, a Constitution was drafted and adopted to rule and govern the citizens of this small West African nation. In 1994, this original Constitution was suspended by the members of the junta that seized power with a military coup. It was in 1997 that a revised version of the document saw the light of day. However, 2016 marked another challenging impasse for the Gambian Constitution when the dictator of twenty-two years refused to accept the defeat he faced at the polls and was removed by the Ecowas Forces still present in the country to date.
The 3rd Republic of the Gambia, currently led by His Excellency Adama Barrow created a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) in 2018 by an Act of the National Assembly of The Gambia. According to their official website, www.crc220.org, their mandate was the following: “The main functions of the CRC are to review and analyze the current Constitution, draft a new Constitution for the Republic of The Gambia and prepare a report in relation to the new Constitution. The report will outline the processes engaged in reviewing and drafting the new Constitution and provide the rationale for the provisions contained in the new Constitution”.
Their Core Values were: “The CRC is an independent body. Pursuant to the Constitutional Review Commission Act of 2017, the CRC, in carrying out its work, is not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”.
As an Institution, it is guided by the following Core Values: “Inclusiveness. Independence. Integrity. Participation. ”
After 18 months of consultation both at home and abroad, the CRC Chairperson, Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow, the Vice Chairperson and the nine Commissioners submitted a final draft of the new Gambian Constitution to His Excellency Adama Barrow, on Monday, March 30th 2020.
What changes can one foresee if this draft is amended by the National Assembly?
The 1997 Constitution of the Gambia was comprised of the following twenty-three chapters:
Chapter I: The Republic
Chapter II: The Constitution and the Laws
Chapter III: Citizenship
Chapter IV: Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms
Chapter V: Representation of the People
Chapter VI: The Executive
Chapter VII: The National Assembly and Legislation
Chapter VIII: The Judicature
Chapter IX: Finance
Chapter X: The Ombudsman
Chapter XI: The Public Services
Chapter XII: The Police Force
Chapter XIII: The Armed Forces and the National Intelligence Agency
Chapter XIV: Land Commission
Chapter XV: Local Government and Traditional Rulers
Chapter XVI: The National Youth Service
Chapter XVII: The National Council for Civic Education
Chapter XVIII: Commissions of Inquiry
Chapter XIX: The Media
Chapter XX: Directive Principles of State Policy
Chapter XXI: Code of Conduct for Public Officers
Chapter XXII: Amendment of the Constitution
Chapter XXIII: Miscellaneous
According to the knoema.com website, The Gambia had an illiteracy rate of 50.78% in 2015, when in 2000, it was 36.82%. One wonders how many citizens have had the opportunity to read a copy of their Constitution. Furthermore, with the “digital era” that we currently live in, one would hope that the CRC has made recommendations to disseminate this valuable document in an audio or video format. The populations of the various communities should observe the rule of law once they have been sensitized in their local languages, notably Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Sarahuley and Joola. The nation building process is guided by our Constitution and each citizen has a duty to observe and abide by the rules and regulations guaranteeing each and every one of us our Constitutional Rights in our newly established democracy.
Civic duties and responsibilities should be the foundation upon which our future generations are shaped into model citizens for the Third Republic of The Gambia. Eleven political parties exist today in our nation, the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the United Democratic Party (UDP), the Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP), the National Convention Party (NCP), the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), the Citizen’s Alliance (CA), the Gambia Action Party (GAP) and the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). These key stakeholders should concert and strategize accordingly to make sure that no citizen in The Gambia ignores the law.
The Coalition they formed to oust a dictatorship of twenty-two years should not go in vain and the nation should move on to economic independence by enlightening the minds and enabling them to constructively innovate beyond limits with the proper frameworks to accompany their well sought endeavors.
The famous quote underlines it perfectly: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.