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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Ya-Kumba starts legal battle to check president’s powers

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By Omar Bah

The Supreme Court of the Gambia is set to begin hearing an unprecedented case brought by nominated member Ya-Kumba Jaiteh, who is contesting her removal by President Barrow.

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The Gambian leader made the controversial decision a week ago, and even named a replacement, one Foday Gassama.
Being the first of its kind, lawyers and activists are excited that the case will be a first major test for the judiciary.

Yesterday a small crowd gathered at the Supreme Court in Banjul chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in solidarity with the national assembly member.
Several activists including the Gambia Bar Association declared the president’s decision as unconstitutional and on Friday, Kumba’s lawyers submitted a motion at the country’s top court seeking a declaration that the president’s action was “unconstitutional”
They are also seeking an interim order to restrain the Speaker of the House Mariama Denton and the Clerk of the National Assembly Momodou Ceesay from swearing in Foday Gassama.

The lawyers also seek to restrain Gassama from representing himself as a lawmaker in any way. Gassama is due to be sworn in on March 18.
If the apex court rules in favour of Barrow and co on the restraining order, allowing Gassama’s swearing in, the case would be overtaken by events.
As Ya Kumba’s case had its first day in court on Monday, lead counsel Borry Touray reminded the five judges on the bench about the urgency of the matter as they race against the swearing-in of Gassama.

However, the lawyer representing the attorney general, Binga D said he received the motion of Kumba’s lawyers on Friday, thus requesting until Thursday to peruse it.
Meanwhile, shortly after the case was adjourned for hearing, lead counsel Borry Touray said they came to court to get a declaration to set aside the decision that has so far been taken by the executive.

Counsel Touray said the action is unconstitutional, adding that the executive cannot be interfering with the smooth functioning of the legislature. “Not in a democratic situation just as how he cannot interfere in the smooth running of the judiciary; so it is the same as the legislature,” he said.
Hearing resumes Thursday.

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