Here are some observations about the defeat of the proposed Constitution from evidence provided by the CRC and the behavior of the President and his Cabinet.
The proposed draft was made available in Nov 2019 and the CRC encouraged feedback. The results of that feedback were discussed in the Final Report of the Draft Constitution of March 2020. Though President Barrow praised the 2-yearlong effort of the CRC writing a new Constitution as Chairperson Justice Jallow presented him the draft, he failed to follow up with any critique or endorsement. Ever. We now know why.
The report is worth reading. It noted many individuals commented and some organizations prepared position papers. One position paper they received during the feedback period was from an ‘institution’, which was likely the Office of the President or its ‘proxy’ the Cabinet. Evidently this unnamed ‘institution’ or its ‘proxy’ lacked the nerve to share its sentiments with the voting public.
Report pages 172-173 discuss the feedback on the Presidential 2-term limit issue. It noted ‘overwhelming’ support for the 2-term limit, with only one individual and an ‘institution’ objecting to limiting the incumbent President to two terms. The CRC stayed with the majority view.
Other pages of the report discussed feedback on limiting the powers of the Office of the President, like control of the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service. The CRC noted there was broad support for providing security of tenure for the Offices of Secretary General. They went on to report the public opinion was that the position should be apolitical and separate from the Office of the President. The CRC concluded that position, and others, will be free from outside influence. It went on to say, though, ‘that subjecting Presidential appointments of every senior position to Parliamentary scrutiny and confirmation may be giving too much power to the Legislature in executive matters; the desired balance in government may be lost’.
One rather entertaining, though puzzling, ominous and prophetic position was voiced by more than one NAM. They dropped their ‘logic’ bomb, saying they support limiting a President to two terms, then with the next breath they flip-flop and insist the current President be allowed to serve a third term. Now probably wishful thinking considering the President ‘torpedoed’ giving citizens the chance to vote on the whole thing despite great expectations otherwise.
And the diplomats representing three of the foreign players in Gambian affairs (minus China, Senegal, AU and ECOWAS) ‘urging’ the NAMs to vote to move the process to the next stage? Perhaps they were compelled to fill the void left by President Barrow’s silence. Regardless, their message sounded like a harmless suggestion, not the usual diplomatic ‘strong arming’ the three are known to practice.
The dustbin of this regime’s failed major endeavors now holds the work of the CRC, on top of most of the Janneh Commission recommendations and assets recovery, the unfunded half of the National Development Plan and the 3-year term promise. Also dumped in there is enforcement of protections for Gambia’s environment. Security Sector Reform seems to be teetering on the edge. And justice for Jammeh looks to be next in the queue.
Over and out,