By Tabora Bojang
The Solicitor General, Hussein Thomasi, has revealed the government is currently undertaking consultations to bring back the 2020 draft constitution with a timeline to hold a national referendum for its passage in December 2024.
National Assembly Members rejected the draft in 2021 with members of the governing NPP and allies accused of masterminding its rejection because of a clause limiting incumbent President Barrow to a period not exceeding 2026.
Government has since devised efforts to revive the draft with negotiations led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan also failing to reach a consensus.
But speaking at discussions marking the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, organised by the Alliance Francaise, French Embassy, EU Delegation and UN Gambia on Friday, Thomasi revealed that consultations led by the special representative of the UN secretary-general Dr Ibn Chambers, international rights advocate Fatou Jagne Senghore, president of the Supreme Islamic Council and chairman of the Christian Council have begun to ensure consensus is reached on stalemates in the draft.
“Constitutional processes do take time. Our [draft] constitution failed before the National Assembly in a democratic process, with members [NAMs] voting against it but efforts are now being made by the government and we have clear time lines to introduce the constitution.
“In the first quarter of 2024 we will start gearing up our activities about the constitution and it is our expectation that by December 2024 we will go to a referendum. These are not my words; I am just reiterating the position of the government. The Minister of Justice has been in several forums to articulate this position and the government is committed to it. The draft constitution is far more progressive. It is something we yearn for and want to see all in the spirit of the Gambia we want. This is our democracy; we have to make it proper,” Thomasi, a former adviser to the Justice Minister, said.
Several participants including law students from the university raised concerns as to whether contentions around retroactive clauses on the president’s term would not disrupt once more the process going forward.
In response, Thomasi said: “Yes that clause is still part of the draft and it is also part of the document that was agreed by the political parties in Abuja, so how the constitution will be presented before the National Assembly is something that has to be worked out by the government and I think at the right time, I am confident that the political parties will have a way to resolve this [retroactive] clause.”