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Sunday, March 3, 2024

NAMs meet to restart constitutional reform process

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By Lamin Cham

National Assembly Members converging for a two-day induction on the resumption of the constitutional reform process have been urged to take advantage of the new opportunity to build a consensus and bring the constitutional process to fruition before the end of the year.

This call was made by Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas of the International Institution for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).  He made this call at a forum called by Speaker Fabakary Tombong Jatta with the support of the European Union.

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Mr Chambas, a former UN envoy for West Africa has been involved in The Gambia’s democratisation process since the change of government in 2017.

He now consults for IDEA, a body involved in the negotiation over The Gambia’s new draft constitution.

Chambas told Gambian parliamentarians to take cognisance of the context of events in the subregion characterised by security challenges such as military takeovers with the regional bloc Ecowas left reeling. 

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“As we speak today, the president of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu, the chairman of Ecowas, is in Dakar. This is not where you expected the chairman of Ecowas to be preoccupying himself. You are close enough and you know what is happening there better than I. And not only in West Africa but also in our continent, there are serious challenges and threats of retreat of democracy as well as at the global front. So this is the context under which we are having this discussion,” Mr Chambas said.

He said The Gambia should nurture the peace that prevails here so that it can be counted as peaceful, stable, young democracy in the region.

“It is under this context that we must finish some of the unfinished businesses from the transition in the new Gambia,” he said.

Mr Chambas said one of the remaining issues is the process of constitutional reform leading to a document that should be put to people through a referendum. He reminded the representatives that the threshold needed to achieve this is high and therefore it is incumbent on them to forge a united front to inspire the population to adopt it.

Speaker Fabakary Tombong Jatta told the meeting that the democratic transition of The Gambia has become a model for future transitional processes as acknowledged by  IDEA and Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, but if democratic backsliding is to be prevented and the democratic gains of the past few years built upon, there is the urgent need to resume frank and candid conversation around the constitution building process.

“This is fundamental because constitution building is a process that reconciles interest groups, strengthens national unity, empowers people and enables them to participate in public life and ultimately leads to enhancing the legitimacy of the state.  Besides, the constitution building process will give us great opportunity as a country to create a common vision of the future of the state, the results of which can have a profound and lasting impact on peace and stability,” Speaker Jatta said. Other speakers include House Clerk Momodou Sise and the EU ambassador.

The   participants will spend the two days raising the awareness of NAMs on their roles in the finalisation of the constitutional reform process. They will also be updated on the initial mediation on the constitutional impasse and presentation of the tentative work plan for the resumption of the reform process.

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