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Legal analysis of the Gambia’s 2017 National Assembly election results

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On Thursday 6th April 2017, The Independent Electoral Commission (I.E.C.), under the able Chairmanship of Mr. Alhaji Mommar Njai, competently conducted The Gambia’s National Assembly / Parliamentary Election for The Gambia’s electorate. Out of 53 hotly contested seats, the United Democratic Party (U.D.P.), under the able leadership of “My Learned Friend” , Lawyer Ousaiou Darboe (now the Honourable Minister Of Foreign Affairs), won 31 seats. The National Reconciliation Party (N.R.P.), under the able leadership of  Honourable Mr. Ahmat Bah (now the Honorable Minister Of Tourism), won 5 seats. The P.D.O.I.S., under the able leadership of Honorable Mr. Halifa Sallah (now the Spokesman of the Coalition Gambia Government), won 4 seats, and Honorable Mr.  Halifa Sallah himself was duly elected as the Honourable Member Of Parliament, for The Serrekunda West Constituency. The A.P.R.C. Party, under the present able leadership of Honourable Mr. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, a former Majority Leader and a former Honourable Member Of The National Assembly for The Serrekunda East Constituently, the present Coordinator of The A.P.R.C. Party, won 5 seats. The Gambia Democratic Congress (G.D.C.), under the able leadership of Honourable Mr. Mamma Kandeh, won 5 seats. The People’s Progressive Party (P.P.P.), the party of our dear beloved first Gambian President, His Excellency Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara (K.C.M.G., G.M.R.G).,now under the able leadership of Honourable Mr. O.J. Jallow, won 2 seats and one Independent Candidate, won 1 seat. Unfortunately, G.M.C., N.C.P. and G.P.D.P, under the leadership of Honourable Mr.  Mai Ahmed Fatty (now the Honourable Minister Of Interior), Dr Bolongding Bojang and Honourable Mr. Hendry Gomez (now the Honourable Minister Of Youth & Sports) respectively, did not win any seat. Better luck to them next time (i.e. in the 2017 Local Government Elections and subsequent National Elections).

Honourable Lawyer Ousaiou Darboe, must be warmly congratulated for his Party (i.e. U.D.P.), winning the majourity  of seats in The Gambia’s National Assembly / Parliament. Veni Vidi Vici (Latin i.e. I came, I saw and I conquered). Clause 371 of The Standing Orders of The Gambia’s National Assembly states :- “There shall be both A Majourity Leader and A Minority Leader in The Gambia’s National Assembly”. Therefore, The Majority Leader , will automatically come from The U.D.P., and accordingly, on Tuesday 11th April 2017, the newly elected Honourable Members of  the aforesaid Assembly, duly and rightfully elected Honourable Mr. Kebba .B. Barrow of The U.D.P. Party as The Majority Leader. The I.E.C. Chairman in pursuance of Section 43 (1) (b) of The Gambia’s 1997 Constitution,  personally conducted the election of both The Majority Leader and The Minority Leader (i.e. Honourable Mr. Samba Jallow of the N.R.P Party, The Minority Leader of the immediate past National Assembly / Parliament.

The U.D.P’s 31 seats in the aforesaid Assembly, is not equivalent to two – thirds (⅔) of the total Membership of Honourable Members of  The National Assembly, who have a voting right. According to Section 82 (2) of the aforesaid  Constitution, His Excellency Mr. Adama Barrow, the current President of The Republic The Gambia, has the Constitutional power or authority to Officially nominate 5 Honourable Nominated Members of The National Assembly, but these 5 Presidential Nominees, do not have any voting right, and it is the Official responsibility of  Honourable Elected Members Of The National Assembly, to elect both The Honourable Speaker and The Honourable Deputy Speaker, from the aforesaid 5 Presidential Nominees. But before such election takes place, Section 88 (2) of the aforesaid Constitution, requires that an Honourable Elected Member should first take “ the prescribed oaths” , which according to The Oaths Act (1965) are :- (1) Oath Of Allegiance, (2) Oath Of Office & (3) Oath Of Secrecy. According to the aforesaid Standing Orders, the Honourable Lord Chief Justice (i.e. Honourable Mr. Justice Hassan B. Jallow – C.R.G.), should administer the aforesaid Oath and Section 93 (1) of the aforesaid Constitution says: – “The Chief Justice shall preside at the election of a Speaker”. Mrs. Mariam Jack – Denton, “My Learned Friend”, who historically is the first Gambian Female Lawyer, my former colleague at The Attorney General’s Chambers & Ministry Of Justice and a daughter of the late Honourable  Sir Alhaji Alieu Sulayman Jack (K.C.M.G.), a former Acting Governor General of The Gambia and The Second  Honourable Gambian Speaker,  was duly elected as The Honourable Speaker of The Gambia’s National Assembly / Parliament. The list of Honourable Gambian Speakers in chronological order, are as follows: – (1) the late Hon. Sir John Mahoney – K.C.M.G., 1954 to 1962, (2) the late Hon. Alhaji Sir Alieu Sulayman Jack, 1962 to 1972, (3) the late DR. S.H.O. Jones, 1972 to 1983, (4) the late Hon. Alhaji Mr. Momodou Baboucar Njie alias “Njie B.P.”, 1983 to 1994, (5) the late Hon. Mr. Mustapha B Wadda, 1997 to 2000, (6) the late Hon. Mr. Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, 2000 to 2006, (7) Hon. DR. Mrs. Fatoumata Jahumpa – Ceesay alias “F.J.C.” (my good friend), from 10th February 2007 to 2009, (8) Hon. Mrs. Elizabeth Renner, from 18th June 2009 to 4th November 2010, (9) Hon. Mr. Alhaji Abdoulie Bojang, from 2010 to March 2017, and (10) Hon. Mrs. Mariam Jack –Denton, from Tuesday 11th April 2017 to date. Hon. Mrs. Mariam Jack – Denton, is therefore The Gambia’s 3rd female Honourable Speaker and the 10th Gambian Honourable Speaker. Her deserved election, is a bold step  in the right direction, for women’s rights and empowerment in The Gambia, by the present Coalition Gambia Government, under the dynamic and visionary leadership of His Excellency President Mr. Adama Barrow. Also on 11th April 2017, Honourable Mr. Momodou Lamin Sanneh, a former Minority Leader of the aforesaid Assembly and a former Honourable Elected Member Of The aforesaid Assembly, for Kiang Central Constituency, was duly elected as The Honourable Deputy Speaker, of the aforesaid Assembly.

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The very fact that The U.D.P’s 31 seats in the aforesaid Assembly, is not equivalent to two – thirds (⅔) of the total Membership of Honouarble Members of  The National Assembly, who have a voting right, is very good Political / Constitutional news for both The Coalition Gambia Government and the Gambian electorate by extension, because if this had been the case, then the whole of The Gambia, will therefore be plunged into what I may fittingly call “ a Constitutional Dictatorship”, and the U.D.P. Honourable  Elected M.P.’s , would have had the power or authority, to always have their way in the aforesaid Assembly, thereby  making the Legislative arm of Government, to be “ a rubber stamp National Assembly / Parliament” . In a worst case scenario, the aforesaid majority of Honourable Elected U.D.P. Members would have been in an ideal Parliamentary position, to easily pass a Motion for what I fittingly call “a Constitutional Coup d’ tat”. By this I mean, they would have been able, to Constitutionally remove His Excellency Mr. Adama Barrow from power, before his 5- year transitional Presidential term is over, by either impeaching him or passing “a vote of no confidence”  against him in The Parliament / National Assembly, in pursuance of Section 67 (1), (2), (3), (4) & (5) of the aforesaid Constitution. Thank God, as the Membership of The Gambia’s National Assembly now stands, there now exists “checks and balances”, which can effectively prevent, Honourable M.P.’s in the National Assembly(i.e. U.D.P.), from the Majority  Political Party  in the aforesaid Assembly, from always having their way, in the aforesaid Assembly.  The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary by A.S. Hornby, authoritatively defines “Democracy” thus: – “Majority rule accompanied by respect for my minority rights” . One of the earliest late American Presidents, His Excellency Mr. Abraham Lincoln, once authoritatively defined “Democracy”  thus :- “ Democracy is a Government of the people , by the people and for the people”.

Leaders of Political Parties, that are legally registered with the I.E.C., indeed have a leverage over their Honourable Members of Parliament, because Section 91 (1) (d) of the aforesaid Constitution reads “A Member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly—if he or she ceases to be a Member of the Political Party of which he or she was a Member at the time of his or her election”.

Honourable Mr. Mamma Kandeh, the leader of the G.D.C., has publicly stated that his Party has rejected the results of The Gambia’s 2017 National Assembly / Parliamentary Election, because His Excellence President Mr. Adama Barrow went on a campaign for Candidates from Political Parties, which form the Coalition Gambia Government. I vehemently beg to differ with Honourable Mr. Mama Kandeh, because from the Legal point of view, his aforesaid assertion is tantamount to a monumental terminological inexactitude, because of the following plausible Legal reasons:-
(1)    The aforesaid conduct of H.E. The President, is tantamount to him exercising his “right of freedom of speech and expression” and “ freedom of association”, which are guaranteed by Section 25 (1) (a) and (e) respectively, of the aforesaid Constitution.
(2)    The aforesaid conduct of H.E. The President, is equivalent to him enjoying his Political Rights, which are guaranteed by Section 26 of the aforesaid Constitution, specifically Section 26 (a) of the aforesaid Constitution reads
:- “Every citizen of The Gambia of full age and capacity shall have the right, without unreasonable restrictions:- (a) to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives”.
(3)     The aforesaid conduct of H.E. The President, was very legal because he was campaigning for Candidates from individual Political Parties, which collectively form the present Gambia Coalition Government, of which he is The Head, therefore he had locus standi (Latin i.e. legal standing) to do what he did.
(4)    Most important of all, the aforesaid conduct of H.E. The President, was based on the Constitutional fact that, he was embarking simultaneously on (a) A Nation – wide tour, in pursuance of Section 222, Clause 16 of the aforesaid Constitution, which reads:-“ The President shall undertake a Nation – wide tour at least twice a year in order to familiarize himself or herself with current conditions and the effects of Government policies”. No person or authority either in or out of The Gambia has the right to tell His Excellence President Mr. Adama Barrow, when to embark on the aforesaid Constitutional Tour.
(4)(b) Finally, His Excellence President Mr. Adama Barrow, was rightfully embarking on “A THANK YOU TOUR”, to thank the Gambian Electorate, for voting him and most Members of the Gambia Coalition Government into Office, during the 1st December 2016 Presidential Election. The Students’ Companion by Wilfred D. Best authoritatively says :- “ Gratitude is the best of virtues, but ingratitude, is the worst of vices”.
“The price wise men pay, for not taking part in Government, is to be governed by foolish men”. From the erudite Greek Philosopher’s (i.e. Plato’s) masterpiece book entitled “The Republic”.

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Note:- The Author, DR. Henry D.R. Carrol – M.R.G., is inter alia a Solicitor General Emeritus Of The Gambia and a Founder Senior Law Lecturer Of The Faculty Of Law of The University Of The Gambia (U.T.G.)

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