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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Letters to the Editor

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What if the law suppresses and oppresses people?

Dear editor,

I am conflicted, between the law and what I believe to be right or morally correct, between unjust law and just action diametrically opposite. “The law is the law until it is changed”, my one part shouts. “It is in place to disobey a bad law, to fight against it in every way possible”, my other part encouraged. Tragedy, according to Hegel, is conflict between right and right.

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30th December 2014: A group of men, actuated by nothing but the desire to free their country from the clutches of tyranny launched an attack on State House which turned deadly for some of them. I have always maintained my admiration for these men and I offer no apology for that. I think their act was heroic, patriotic, selfless and for Mother Gambia. Was it Constitutional? According to the book, may be not. Was it moral? In my book, mine I mean, absolutely it was. Isn’t this a conflict? In my position, may be.

In greater measure, I believe in democracy as the best form of government known to us, at least better than all other systems tried and tested. A key part of democracy is respect for the law, for the Constitution which a people give to themselves, a covenant they enter into with other. Thus, whatever is done outwith that Constitution is, to the degree or extent of the deviation or inconsistency, ultra vires or illegal. So overthrowing or removing a government without following the due process laid down by that law is “illegal”, is treason, is unconstitutional. Watertight argument? May be difficult to argue against if one is a democrat. Legalistic, one should not go against the Constitution. But that is only legalistically speaking.

But what if that Constitution has been bastardised over the years? What if that Constitution no longer speaks or addresses the aspirations of the people? What if that same Constitution has been used against the people, to imprison, to crib their rights and freedoms, to kill, to shrink their spaces for dissent, to take away their rights, to abuse and misuse them? What if the Constitution has been used to usher in a tyranny or a dictatorship? What if it is a “Constitutional Dictatorship”, a some what “unconstitutional Constitution’?

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The law is not necessarily a safeguard of morality, of what is considered good. The law is often not in the best interest of the people but rather a tool to safeguard and protect the interests of few, of the ruling class. We reached a stage when the law or the Constitution was a tool to safeguard the interests of Yaya, when it was used against the people whose rights it was supposed to protect. It was a classic case of the fence eating up the crops. All the instruments torture were used against the people, in full force. The citadels of protection, the National Assembly, the armed forces and the Judiciary, were convenient handmaids. They watched helplessly, nay supported, the bastardisation of the Constitution. They were against the people.

What were the people supposed to do? To continue to obey the law? To use constitutional means to change their rulers? To wait untill the whole society is actuated for change and then, only then, to fight for change? To resign to fate and pray for divine intervention? To endure, with the belief that nothing lasts forever? To take up arms to change their Government, by whatever means available? Apartheid was legal. Colonialism was legal. Slavery was legal. The Third Reich was legal. The Governments of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Bokassa, Barry, etc were all legal.

In the United States Declaration of Independence, it is stated that “Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient cause…” True…. But what if the people, after a train of uninterrupted abuses and violations, now consider these causes as neither light nor transient? What if what the people eventually get is “Constitutional Dictatorship”? What if the laws are used to violate the rights of the people? What if the Institutions which were supposed to check the powers of the Executive got emasculated and deeply compromised?

We form a government to secure our rights, to protect our lives and property, to satisfy our needs, to expand our liberties, to give us happiness and to ensure we are able to reach our maximum potentials. When the will of the people are subverted, when the Government betrays its main raison d’etre, when the people become cannon fodder and mere cog in the turning wheels of the Government machinery, when sovereignty of the people itself is taken away, when the voices of the people is silenced arbitrarily, they should have the right to change that Government by every means possible.

What is constitutionalism to a people living under tyranny? What is due process to a people who have seen their laws subverted and used against them? Will the argument of Constitutionalism mean much to the suppressed people of Togo, to people everywhere living under stifling dictatorship?

The message should be to all governments that when the will of the people is subverted, when tyranny becomes the other of the day, when the law is used to suppress and violate, the people will have the right to change that government by whatever means available and necessary, whether by the whole people or a group of them. This has been the case throughout written history, the only means available to the oppressed and down trodden
“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People” US Declaration of Independence.

Njundu Drammeh

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