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‘Blame political parties, not NAMs, over failure of draft constitution’

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By Omar Bah

The minority leader and NAM for Brikama North has said the country’s political parties should be blamed for the failure of the draft constitution and not the National Assembly Members. 

In September 2020, Gambia’s lawmakers rejected the draft constitution to replace the 1997 constitution. The document, which was to help reform the country’s governance system, could not secure enough votes at the National Assembly. Thirty-one National Assembly Members voted in favour of the bill to be passed, while 23 members rejected the new draft constitution.

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In the last few days, IDEA started the process of reengaging stakeholders to revitalise the draft constitution. The revitalisation process was launched on Tuesday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Centre, attended by political party leaders and representatives, eminent persons, and others.

Addressing a meeting on the revitalisation of the draft, Alhagie S Darboe said all those who voted against the draft constitution acted on the position of their political parties and that its rejection cannot be shouldered by the NAMs.

“So, the draft was rejected due to a lack of political consensus, and if we are to make any progress, we should first iron out the grievances of the political parties so that their representatives at the National Assembly would be able to speak in the same language,” he said.

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Abubacarr Kinteh of the National Convention Party said political parties should put aside their differences and get the constitution passed without any further delay. “We need this constitution very badly for the country to be able to fully transition into a third republic,” he said. He said the NCP is open to adopting the constitution.

UDP’s Ya-Kumba Jaiteh said the Gambian people never rejected the draft constitution because it didn’t go to a referendum.

“The draft constitution is in a coma because of the politicians and us that were at the National Assembly. That’s where the draft suffered,” she said.

The Gambia Alliance for National Unity representative, Ba S Jabbi, said his party is concerned that the country may go into the 2026 presidential election without a new constitution. “This will be a very big disservice to the Gambian people,” he said. Jabbi said all political parties and stakeholders should be invited to a retreat where they would discuss the contentious issues in the draft constitution.

The IDEA representative and former UN envoy, Mohamed Ibn Chambers, said: “The National Assembly has been blamed for the rejection of the draft constitution, but who is the National Assembly? Of course, all of you are sitting here. The political parties put them up for election and campaigned for them to win.”

Chambers said he is encouraged by the political parties’ willingness to work together and desire to have a new constitution.

“You are all encouraged to put The Gambia’s interest over anything else. You should not allow all the good work you have done in preparing the constitution to go in vain”. He said IDEA will find the resources to also engage the National Assembly.

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