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Monday, October 2, 2023

Will we have a new constitution?


There are currently a lot of discussions about efforts to revive the process of ushering a new constitution for The Gambia. This is seen by many as essential in the bid to strengthen the democratic gains made since the change of government after the 2016 presidential elections. There was a lot of hope and interest in building a new constitution soon after the change. This hope was however short-lived. 

It could be recalled that a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was set up to carry out the work of building a new constitution through wide consultations with everyone in the country. The CRC consulted political parties, civil society, religious bodies, and community leaders and even traveled outside the country in order to consult Gambians abroad and include their views. The process was very thorough and transparent such that it was praised by all.

It was reported that over one hundred million dalasi was spent on the whole process and most Gambians were jubilant that there would soon be a new constitution which will usher in the Third Republic. True democracy was on the offing, or so many thought. This was not going to be; however, as the draft could not go past the second reading.

Concerns were raised from different circles that the new constitution did not favour the sitting president as it stipulated that the counting of the term limits should begin from his first term. Thus, supporters of the president saw it as being pitched against him and they therefore did everything they could to oppose it.

On whether or not proponents of the new constitution were justified, the jury is still out on that. What matters now is that talks have begun again to ensure that the new constitution is reintroduced. When the draft constitution failed, it was back to basics in the country as the elections ever since have had to be held under the 1997 Constitution which has been generally agreed to have some serious flaws which make it less democratic than what is expected.

Considering the turmoil in which the continent is passing, especially West Africa, it is extremely important that the Gambia endeavors to have a constitution which is in line with the modern trends of democratic norms. Take for instance the lack of term limits in the 1997 Constitution and see what overstaying in power is causing in the sub-region. That alone should reveal the significance of making efforts to reintroduce the draft constitution.

Civil society, political parties, religious leaders and all concerned must initiate a dialogue in order to impress on the government the importance of bringing back the constitution. Efforts must be made to ensure that future generations of Gambians do not blame us for failing them.

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