It is a great week for democracy in The Gambia as we await a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court of the country on a case revolving around whether the president has the ability (constitutionally) to sack a sitting National Assembly Member or not.
The case was brought on when last week the President of the Republic of The Gambia, Mr Adama Barrow decided to revoke the nomination of Miss Ya Kumba Jaiteh to the National Assembly. Many citizens called the decision unconstitutional and that it should be rescinded forthwith.
Those in this camp have a geniune fear as the Wolof say, ‘Ku njugub rey sa maam soo seeni lu nyuul daw’. (This can be rendered: Once bitten twice shy – not literal). We have recently emerged from a dictatorship which had no regard for the rule of law and the hiring and firing (of even National Assembly Members) was the order of the day.
Considering the importance attached to the separation of powers in a democracy, the sacking of a sitting National Assembly Member – nominated or elected – will definitely raise eyebrows. It is feared that if this is left unchallenged, then it might serve as a precedent which will quickly erode our democratic gains and take us back to dictatorship.
However, there are many citizens – including some lawyers – who believe and say that the action of the president is indeed constitutional as he is the nominating authority, which incidentally, gives him the powers to revoke the nomination of any such nominee who is deemed to have become unfit for office or a liability to the presidency.
Thus, two lawyers in that camp have also filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court calling for the action of the president to be declared constitutional and Ya Kumba ordered to leave the premises of the National Assembly forthwith.
This case has many benefits for the nascent democracy of the country as it will also give us the chance to see whether our judiciary is truly independent of the Executive or not.
An independent and vibrant judiciary is an important component of governance in any democracy. This case will therefore yield results which will go a long way in strengthening democracy and the rule of law. It will also strengthen democratic institutions in the country regardless of how the verdict goes.
Thus, all we need to say is, let the chips fall where they may!