On Monday 30th of March 2020, the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) submitted its report and the final Draft Constitution to the President, Mr Adama Barrow. Yesterday, the 31st of March, the same was published.
When President Adama Barrow came into office in January 2017, one of the things he announced as his government’s top priorities was reviewing the 1997 Constitution in order to bring it in line with modern democratic constitutions.
On 13th January 2018, the President assented to the Act of the National Assembly which established the commission on 13th December 2017. According to the Act, the role of the Commission was to review the 1997 Constitution and produce a new draft and an explanatory report of the process.
The Commission began its work and consulted widely both Gambians here at home and those abroad. When they published the first draft, a huge interest in it was displayed by members of the public who brought to the fore many issues which concerned them.
One of the most hotly debated issues in that draft was the country’s status of being secular or non-secular. Many citizens aired their views on this issue and a heated debate was generated in the country about it. The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) has now said that all rights have been guaranteed in this draft even though the word secular is not explicitly mentioned.
The new constitution stipulates a two-term limit for the presidency whether those two terms are consecutive or not. This is new as it has never been in the Gambia’s laws. This also makes it a progressive constitution which is in line with modern democratic norms.
The Constitution has many other progressive provisions which are very much in line with modern democratic principles. For instance, there is a provision which stipulates the qualifications of president. Another provision makes it binding for people aspiring to run for such office to declare their assets to the public.
The issue is now when will this dreaded coronavirus dissipate to allow the citizens to go for a referendum to usher in the Third Republic?