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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Gambia and the monarchy debate

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I am flabbergasted and perturbed by the political orientation and consciousness of some Gambians.  With the advent of university education in the country, everyone would have expected that the condition of our political awakening and maturity would have monumentally improve. But it is disheartening and of course worrisome to see and hear contemporary thinkers advancing arguments which are insults to our collective intellect and aspirations for democracy. 

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Of recent, there have been arguments orchestrated by some individuals that The Gambia is better off under monarchical rule. This issue has been generating much talk about town. People are left in a state of endless speculation.  An article published by The Standard newspaper on the 23rd May, 2014, reads that the issue was raised at the National Assembly by some members. They argued that the country and its people should support kingship. This has provoked me.

I have no right however to condemn their rights to freedom of expression as guaranteed under section 25 (1)a of the Constitution of The Gambia. They are entitled to their opinions. But, I believe the society deserves to be furnished with responsible and constructive information; and also laws that reflect social reality which are free from sentiments and self-service. 

I must hasten to admonish them that it is unfortunate that their yearnings and aspirations are at variance with the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia. Section 214 (1) states that “The Gambia shall be a democratic state dedicated to freedom, peace, progress, prosperity and justice.” Thus, if you understand the legal principle of statutory interpretation, the word “shall” is mandatory and therefore it militates against your wishes. 

This is also supported by section 1 (1) of the same constitution which guaranteed the republic status of The Gambia. This means that the mode of operation of the government shall only be through representative government. This vested the supreme power in the people of The Gambia to periodically elect their president and of course parliamentarians. Therefore, monarchy or kingship is not within the aspiration and contemplation of the constitution. 

The idea of government based on monarchical rule is obsolete at best. It is irreconcilable with the aspirations of a progressive society. It is inimical to democratic norms and values. Therefore, it is an affront to common sense and indeed to our very people who fought and risked their lives to liberate The Gambia from the decadence of monarchical government to see 21st century thinkers promoting kingship in The Gambia.  

More developed countries with richer human resources are promoting and protecting democracy based on term limit instead of unlimited government. This should be our focus and issue of promotion in The Gambia.  Many countries are rapidly progressing in their political orientations. And I believe The Gambia and its people should emulate this instead of thinking retrogressively. 

The National Assembly in exercising their constitutional responsibility of law-making should execute it in accordance with the yearnings and aspirations of the electorates. Everyone agrees that a democracy denotes the supremacy of the will of the people, which is usually effectuated through electing representatives into a legislative body. Therefore, it is implied that representatives will always act in the best interest of the people. 

 

There are pertinent issues in the country more worthy of National Assembly deliberations such as unemployment rate, minimum wage, inflation, 10 % tuition fees increment at the University of The Gambia, illegal migration, mechanisms to implement 2016 government agenda, adequate and reliable electricity supply nationwide etc. These are issues of greater significance to Gambians than belaboring and wasting tax payers moneys on extraneous issues geared toward opportunistic pursuits.  

 

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the fact that The Gambia has gone far in establishing and promoting democracy. We have been quite successful in entrenchment of our democratic norms and values and the future if not polluted is brighter and promising. Therefore, as patriotic and honest citizens we must cherish and protect the developments registered within the relatively short period of self-governemnt.  

 

Sheriff Kumba Jobe

University of The Gambia

Law Faculty

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