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Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Reviving the Draft Constitution?

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Reports had it that cabinet was to yesterday meet over the Draft Constitution of the Gambia. Government officials seemed to be hopeful that with the fresh effort this time round, the draft is going to pass and usher in the Third Republic. It is expected that with the wide consultations, consensus can be found so that it will sail through.

It could be recalled that after the 2016 Presidential Elections which brought President Adama Barrow to power, many citizens were of the view that the 1997 Constitution had undergone so many changes that it was no longer fit for purpose and that a new constitution needed to be written.

Thus, a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was put in place to consult and write a new constitution. The commission set out to do its work in earnest. A massive consultation of all relevant stakeholders was done. Political parties, religious groupings, civil society organisations, traditional leaders and the general public were all consulted to give their views in the new constitution. 

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In fact, the CRC even traveled to Europe and the Americas to consult Gambians living in those countries. There was a lot of hype and hope that this new draft constitution will pass and will become operational in a short time. Everyone was talking about the draft and was looking forward to its promulgation.

However, when the Draft Constitution went to the National Assembly, some members raised concerns over certain clauses which were seen to be targeting and therefore discriminating against the sitting president as it called for the two term limit to be retroactive. This did not go down well with supporters of the president and they therefore campaigned against it.

It was for this reason that it could not pass the second reading and therefore was put aside while negotiations continued. Ever since that happened, several attempts have been made to come to a compromise about the contentious issues but to no avail. Considering the huge amount of money expended in building this draft constitution, it is unlikely that the government or the donors will just let it die like that.

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Perhaps with the new vigor, compromises will be made so that it can pass. It is important to remember that a constitution is a political document and therefore requires a lot of bargaining and compromises. Stakeholders are urged to see the bigger picture and make the necessary compromises so that the Third Republic can be ushered in. 

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