The concept of separation of powers is a very important aspect of democracy. In effect, in a democracy, there are three arms: the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature. These three arms have equal powers and are supposed to hold each other accountable.
In the Gambia, having undergone a twenty-two year dictatorship, the lines between these three arms blurred until they almost became inseparable. The citizenry lost hope and confidence in the judiciary as it was seen as doing the bidding of the executive.
In 2016, the citizens went out and voted the former government out with the hope of ushering in a democratic government which will respect the separation of powers so that the Rule of Law will reign supreme.
Many citizens were not so sure whether the change had reached the corridors of justice as it was yet to be seen whether the courts will be independent or not.
In March 2019, an opportunity to put this to test arose when the president, Mr Adama Barrow, unilaterally announced the sacking of nominated member Ms Ya Kumba Jaiteh from her position as a National Assembly Member. A lot of brouhaha ensued as many posited that the president does not have such powers and therefore should not revoke the nomination of a sitting member.
Ms. Ya Kumba Jaiteh filed a case at the Supreme Court challenging that decision. The Supreme Court, being the only body responsible for interpreting the constitution of the Gambia, has finally ruled in favour of Ya Kumba Jaiteh.
The Supreme Court has declared that the action of President Adana Barrow of revoking the nomination of Ya Kumba Jaiteh was unconstitutional and that the subsequent nomination of Foday Gassama is unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
This is a huge win for democracy as it upholds the separation of powers in government. This will restore the confidence of the citizens in the independence of the judiciary which is very essential for the progress of democracy.