By Madi Jobarteh
The ruling by The Gambia Supreme Court that sedition as stipulated in the Criminal Code is constitutional is indeed frightening, disappointing and annoying.
Sedition first emerged in England in the latter part of the 16th century as a political and judicial weapon against intellectuals who were raising critical issues about freedom, democracy and the power of the monarch. Before sedition, the monarch had already created the offenses of treason to contain rebellious elites, clergy and the privileged class while martial law was also created as a weapon against commoners. Hence sedition is the final complement of draconian laws used to protect the monarchy from scrutiny and accountability and to place it beyond and above citizens.
In a monarchy such as 16th century England, the sovereignty of the people resides in the king. Hence it is understandable to have such an obnoxious offense as sedition in a monarchy so that no one questions the king.
But in a democratic republic the sovereignty of the nation resides in citizens and the government derives its legitimacy from the people. This is what The Gambia Constitution states in Section 1 subsection 2.
Furthermore the right of Gambians to express their opinion about their president and his government, rightly or wrongly, pleasantly or unpleasantly as well as to petition the president and to participate in politics to oppose the president are clearly stipulated and guaranteed in the constitution.
The presence of sedition laws therefore directly and clearly violates the spirit and letter of our constitution which purposefully intended to establish a democratic republic and not a monarchy.
Therefore to have our Supreme Court now stamp that sedition is Constitutional is indeed a very backward and a politically motivated decision that can only produce dictatorship once again in our country.
Not long ago the ECOWAS Court in which The Gambia is a party ruled that sedition laws in The Gambia are inimical to democracy and a civilized society. The supreme courts in Nigeria, Uganda and India among many had long since ruled that sedition is unconstitutional in a democracy.
This ruling by the Supreme Court therefore serves only one purpose: that is, to elevate Pres. Adama Barrow and his government above the will and power of Gambian citizens to scrutinize. The Supreme Court has now confirmed that no Gambian citizen has the right to question the president much more to disagree and criticize the president.
This means the Supreme Court has just told us that the President of the Republic of The Gambia is a monarch! Anyone who says this is indeed committing treason because such a statement means the sovereignty of The Gambia does not reside in the people of The Gambia. The Supreme Court is saying that the President is the sovereign in The Gambia. That is treason!
All citizens must resist this ruling and demand that this Supreme Court review its decision or those judges who hold this decision to resign. They do not represent the supreme interests of The Gambia. Their ruling clearly indicates their intention to lock this country into a dictatorship forever and ever!