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Saturday, April 17, 2021

STAKEHOLDERS DEMAND TO MEET BARROW OVER DRAFT

By Omar Bah

Representatives from political parties, civil society and religious organisations have unanimously agreed on a resolution to task President Adama Barrow to immediately facilitate a national dialogue to find consensus on the constitution crisis.

In September, Gambian lawmakers rejected a draft constitution to replace the 1997 Constitution. About 31 National Assembly Members voted in favour of the bill to be passed while 23 members rejected the draft.

The Barrow government then turned to mediation specialist and former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan to find consensus on the draft constitution ahead of its planned return to the National Assembly.

But Mr Jonathan’s attempts so far, which include flying political party leaders to Nigeria to find consensus, have not yielded fruits. The former Nigerian leader is expected to return to the country next Monday to continue the mediations.

Since the rejection of the draft, civil society organisations under the leadership of TANGO and the Gambia Bar Association have been engaging government and political parties to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

Recently, the country’s CSOs and political party representatives converged at a consultative meeting on the contentious issues. At the end of the meeting, they agreed on a resolution to task President Barrow to facilitate a meeting with them.

The chairman of TANGO, John Charles Njie, said the president should “not shy away from sitting with political party leaders and civil society”.

“The truth is that even if the majority of Gambians were in President Barrow’s position, they will not concede to have their first term counted, but he should be open to dialogue. That will give him the opportunity to tell the Gambian people what he wants,” Njie said. 

The president of the Gambia Bar Association, Salieu Taal, said: “It is paramount for The Gambia to have a new constitution as a building block to what we call the New Gambia. Unfortunately, we never sat down to have a discussion about what this New Gambia is and the values that underpin it. It is just a slogan or rhetoric or just a convenient tool to remove a dictatorship”.

Taal observed that the country is at a crossroad. “We will have in December what could be the toughest election ever in a very polarised society. We have removed a dictatorship but we are still building a new democracy under the same tools, framework and system we decided to turn our backs against. We said Never-Again but we have the same constitution and the same law, not a single major legal amendment has been made as we speak. We must build a consensus to have a constitution that will represent our values and stand the test of time,” he advised. 

The Citizens’ Alliance leader, Dr Ismaila Ceesay said the president “should endeavor to meet with party leaders and civil society to tell Gambians what he wants because he had not made his position on the draft constitution public.” 

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