Every single day, it becomes more apparent that The Gambia is plagued with the constitutional equivalence of a personality disorder. This problem is exacerbated by the inconsistent and off-the-cuff pronouncements of President Yaya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa. Most of these pronouncements neither have basis, nor remotely consistent with the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia.
The latest indication of this quagmire is President Jammeh’s latest rash move to declare The Gambia, an Islamic State while attending a political rally in the coastal city of Brufut without due procedure as clearly stated in the constitution. The widely reported and criticized statement is so void of constitutional reasoning that the Secretary General of PDOIS Honorable Halifa Sallah wrote to the Attorney General of The Gambia Fatima Singhateh to urge her to remind the President of his Constitution obligations. It is also noteworthy to mention that other opposition political party leaders such as Hamat Bah of the NRP also strongly denounced this move by President Jammeh.
For the Gambia to become an Islamic State, the Jammeh government will have to overcome pretty steep huddles, constitutionally. Even harder yet, they would have to convince an increasingly socially evolving populace that has been steadily exposed to western culture and globalization to all of a sudden accept a quasi-Islamic state. This evolution is what forced the president to, again unconstitutionally; declare the end to the harmful practice of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) without a constitutional amendment by the National Assembly in a country that has some of the highest prevalence of the practice within Africa for centuries, due to mostly outside pressures in the form of Human Rights Campaigners and Donor governments.
As eloquently explained by Halifa Sallah in a December,17 2015 letter to the Attorney General of The Gambia published in the Foroyya Newspaper entitled: Halifa Sallah Writes to the Attorney General on the Unconstitutional Declaration of Gambia as an Islamic State rightly pointed out, these are the constitutional requirements to properly declare an Islamic state:
- “…two legitimate Constitutions cannot co-exist side by side. One must be a true constitution and the other a farce. In this case the 1997 Constitution which has been approved at a Referendum and came into force on 16th January 1997 is the real Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic declared in Brufut does not exist.”
- “…no Republic could exist without a Republican Constitution which establishes the laws and institutions of a state. An Islamic Republic has to have its own Constitution which would indicate the qualifications and roles of presidents, ministers, parliamentarians and judges. The Constitution would have to come into force before one could declare an Islamic Republic.”
- Finally, “…no new Constitution could legally come into being in the Gambia. The 1997 Constitution is the Fundamental law and it could only be changed by amendments as provided for in Section 226 of the Constitution. No amendments have taken place or could take place to change the nature of the Republic as enshrined in Chapter One Subsections 1 and 2 without a long process lasting more than 6 months which must culminate with the holding of a referendum.”
Needless to say, none of the above mentioned huddles were met prior to President Jammeh’s declaration of The Gambia as an ‘Islamic State’. Therefore, the only conclusion to reach is that President Jammeh was just pandering to his base or to potential benefactors in the Gulf States for development Aid as his relationship with the west deteriorates due to disagreements on The Gambia’s Human Rights record.
Nonetheless, the president took an oath to defend the 1997 Constitution. Any declaration which is at variance with the provisions of the Constitution is a violation of his oath of office. Therefore, the president has two choices; double down on his disregard for some of the most sacred tenets of the constitution by further unilateral acts without constitutional due process or embark upon that rightful but almost impossible task of convincing the Gambian people that they will be better off in an Islamic State with all that that entails.
In my humble opinion, the president and his party and by extension The Gambian people will be greatly served if he cleans up his act and strictly adhere to the dictates of The Gambian constitution in all matters of the state.
Written By Anonymous the Patriot