Gambian people have voted for President Barrow to serve five years term mandate as stipulated in the constitution during December 1st, 2016 Presidential election. This is evidence by the constitutional provision, section 63(1) which states that ” the term of office of an elected president shall, subject to subsection (3) and (6), be for a term of five years , and the person elected president shall before assuming office take the prescribed oaths”. This constitutional provision is totally in contravention with the three years term the coalition opposition Leaderships have agreed upon. Now the question that is in the mind of every Gambian is that ” should the new National Assembly members change the constitution to satisfy the agreement of the coalition or maintain current five years term?”.
My answer to this question is simply NO. Politically, it will be impossible for UDP National Assembly members to support and vote for such constitutional change for President Barrow to serve three years instead of constitutional requirement of five years term. Legally, even if the case is taken to Supreme Court, the court will also not support or justify three years term agreement because it violates the constitution of The Gambia. Our political leaderships should have known that the constitution clearly states that the President shall serve five years term and nothing less or more. Any changes to this constitutional provision is a violation of our constitution and it is betrayal of trust and confidence Gambian people have bestowed on the President to serve five years term. Such a change also violates the basic duty and responsibility of the President which is to uphold and defend the constitution.
Today , I have read a report on freedom newspaper about the press conference conveyed by Honorable Halifa Sallah, a National Assembly member for Serekunda Central and who was also among the leaders who made an agreement on the coalition formation and its election principles. In the report, Hon Sallah complained that ” We ( coalition leaders) agreed in the beginning to elect a president that will not overstay , and after serving three years such person will not contest the next election. This is what Barrow agreed and was elected at the 1st December , 2016 presidential elections “. The question I have for Mr Sallah, ” why did the coalition leaders made an agreement on three years term which violates constitution of The Gambia, knowing fully well the Gambian constitution clearly states that the President shall serves five years term? Mr Sallah who always claimed to be an expert on Gambian constitution through his words and actions simply failed to remind himself at the time that three years agreement was totally in violation of our constitution. Why did he complained about the three years constitutional violation he has advocated and supported during the coalition formation?
Mr Sallah did not only complained about agreement they have made on three years term for President Barrow to serve but he also went further to complain that ” we all agreed that President Barrow be elected as an independent candidate to lead the coalition and to elect independent candidates as National Assembly members under the coalition government. But some parties insisted that they wanted to sustain their parties that was why we contested under our individual parties instead of contesting as an independent candidates under the coalition as we agreed upon earlier”. This lead to another question I have for Mr Sallah ” where was the agreement that the coalition should have contested National Assembly elections as independent candidates?”. I think Mr Sallah is totally in denial of what they have agreed upon. There was never an agreement which was published publicly that indicated the coalition agreed to have an independent candidates for National Assembly elections during its formation. If there was such a document then I would encourage Mr Sallah to produce the evidence rather than complained about what has never been agreed upon.
As we speak, Gambian people are looking forward to see our President serves full five years term based on what is stipulated in the constitution. Whatever agreement the coalition leaders made was between themselves and that agreement has no bearing on what Gambian constitution states and Gambian people voted for. The constitution of The Gambia is the supreme law of the land and is the guiding principle that our elected leaders must follow.
After 22 years of military dictatorship, it is time to follow the constitution and make necessary constitutional reforms which benefits every Gambian. Five years term which Gambian people have voted for President Barrow to serve, is enough time for the new government to embark on constitutional, political and economic reforms agenda. Considering deteriorating political, economic and constitutional crisis President Barrow inherited from Dictator Yaya Jammeh, a five years constitutional term will help the new government to lay down the foundations for democratic values, institutional reforms and economic development projects for the future generations. Any changes to the constitutional provision of five years term shall be subjected to referendum which is too costly for our poor citizens to finance. In this fragile political environment, another presidential election in the next three years would generate more divisions among the citizens. It is time to heal together as a nation and Gambian people do not need any political bickering or infighting. Whatever bad agreement the political leaders made during the coalition formation is their fault. They should not drag the country into their ill-conceived constitutional violations as Mr Sallah is currently complaining about . President Barrow must serve five years term. I hope the National Assembly members will work to serve the common interest of Gambian people as our constitution states.
Thank you .