By Dida Halake
“Cabinet had wanted the Constitutional Review Commission to remove the section from the draft which, if passed, will bar President Barrow from contesting elections after 2021?, reports The Standard newspaper.
In other words, the Cabinet wants President Barrow to be able to contest the election in 2026. So, the Cabinet position paper wants the Constitutional Review Commission to:
“… delete section 5 of Schedule 3, and to further qualify the provisions of section 100(2) by making it effective from the coming into force of the draft constitution in order to avoid any ambiguities”.
Interestingly, “avoidance of ambiguities” is exactly why the learned members of the Constitutional Commission expressed Section 5 Schedule 3 and Section 100(2) in the Draft Constitution exactly as they have; the singular unambiguous objectivebeing that NO PRESIDENT AFTER YAHYA JAMMEH SHOULD EVER SERVE MORE THAN 10 YEARS IN OFFICE. There is no ambiguity there.
“UNFAIR TO BARROW”, cries the Cabinet. “Discriminatory against Barrow”!
This is Barrow’s 1st truly bad move
When Barrow changed his mind about his three-year commitment, it was pretty easy to justify in terms of development plans – and I think more importantly – the waste of scarce resources in organising an election in 3 years. And of course, as Lawyer Darboe argued (LOL!), the current constitution gives Barrow the right to serve for five years – so even if he had gone back on his words no one could claim he in anyway acted illegally. Further, most none partisan reasonable people thought that the 2021 election was just around the corner – and so it is not worth making a fuss over the 3 years promise.
But Barrow’s wish to contest in 2026 (and therefore be in power for at least 15 years!) is unjustifiable to a population that has recently got rid of a brutal 22-year dictatorship.
Entrenchment leads to dictatorship
African dictatorships and brutality result from an urge by leaders to entrench themselves in power. That is what happened in Wade’s Senegal a few years ago – and is at this very moment happening in Guinea Conakry. President Barrow has avoided the misuse of the state apparatus to oppress the Gambia people so far … but a dictatorship is absolutely guaranteed to ensue if the Barrow government rejects the Draft Constitution.
What happens next?
The Cabinet has asked the Constitutional Review Commission to change the Draft Constitution as above – to enable President Barrow to remain in office until 2031 if he wishes to.
The Constitutional Review Commission will almost certainly refuse to change the Draft Constitution to make it possible for Barrow to serve as President for 15 years – if he wishes to.
The Cabinet will refuse to put the Draft Constitution to the National Assembly and/or the Gambian people. The Gambia continues to be ruled under Jammeh’s 1997 Constitution – and President Barrow remains free to seek re-election until 2031 if he wishes.
President Barrow realises that objection to Section 5 Schedule 3 and Section 100(2) in the Draft Constitution is a BAD IDEA, puts the Draft Constitution before the National Assembly and the Gambian people – and seeks re-election in 2021 for a final 5-year term.
Attempts at entrenchment by an African President, in these days of economic difficulties and social media revolutions, is an extremely bad idea – it will never end well for any President. The majority of African people are hungry and struggling to survive – the majority. In such a dire economic situation, a perceived attempt by a President and a group around him whom the hungry people will see as his “corrupt clique”, will lead to an uprising … unless the police and army are prepared to suppress the protesting citizens through brute force. And in those circumstances, the President (now turned dictator) will quickly lose legitimacy – domestically and internationally: just as Jammeh did and had to run for his life.
I think President Barrow will be best advised to accept the Draft Constitution as it is – and accept that his maximum time in power will be 10 years.