Gambian people have voted for President Barrow to serve five years mandate as stipulated in the constitution in December 1st, 2016 Presidential election. This evidence is found in 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 on. Now the question that is not communicated is whether the “new National Assembly members should change the constitution to satisfy the coalition’s agreement or maintain the current five years term?”

My answer to this question is simply NO. Politically, it will be impossible for the United Democratic Party (UDP) National Assembly members to support and vote for a constitutional change that limits President Barrow’s tenure in office.

Legally, the Supreme Court of the country will also not support and justify the three-year term since 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 – nothing less or more. Any changes to this constitutional provision is a violation of our constitution and betrayal of trust and confidence Gambian people have bestowed on their President to serve a five-year mandate. Such changes also violates the basic duty and responsibility of the President which is to uphold and defend the constitution.

I have read a report on the press conference conveyed by Hon. Halifa Sallah, the National Assembly member for Serekunda Central. He was among the leaders who set the stage for a potential controversy. The coalition agreement on the President’s mandate must not supercede a constitution that majority of Gambians voted for. 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 is, “why did the coalition leaders in the first place make an agreement which violates the constitution of The Gambia knowing fully well that the Gambian constitution clearly states that the president shall serve five years in office? 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 is totally in violation of our constitution. Why is he complaining about the three-year constitutional violations he has advocated and supported during the coalition formation?

Mr Sallah did not only complain about President Barrow’s term in office, but also queried as to why Coalition parties failed to agree on national assembly election. “We all agreed that President Barrow be an 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 insist that they wanted to sustain their parties that was why we contested under our individual parties, instead of contesting as independent candidates under the coalition as we agreed upon earlier.” This leads​ to another question that I have for Hon. Sallah. Where is the agreement that states that the coalition should contest National Assembly election as independent candidates? Mr Sallah either has amnesia or he is totally in denial of what they have agreed upon. There was never an agreement that was published publicly that the coalition parties agreed to have independent candidates for National Assembly elections during its formation. If there is such a document then I would encourage Mr. Sallah to produce the evidence rather than complaining about what has never been agreed upon.

As we speak, Gambian people are looking forward to seeing​ their president serve full constitutionally mandated five-year term in office. Whatever agreement the coalition leaders made was between themselves and that agreement has no bearing on what Gambian constitution mandated or Gambians 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 benefit every Gambians​. 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, the five-year constitutional term will help the new government country to lay down the foundation 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 which is why Gambians 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.

Max

Ends

17 Comments

  1. Thank you max, this was why halifa was beating the drum of coalition independent national assembly members so can facilitate a constitutional coup.we have more on our plate than thinking about elections

  2. Quote: “Our political leaderships should have known that the constitution clearly states that the President shall serve five years term – nothing less or more. ”

    The Constitution did not say that the President cannot serve for less or more than 5 years, so your claim of “nothing less or more” is absolutely FALSE. It is constitutionally position for the President to serve for less or more than 5 years.

    President Barrow campaigned on a 3 year platform, and offered himself as an independent candidate who will serve for ONLY 3 years, at the head of a broad based inclusive transitional Coalition Government.

    I would like to see where Hon. Sallah said that the 3 year Transition term limit is unconstitutional.

    Did the Coalition intend to present Independent coalition candidates for the NA Elections? Yes, I think so and the evidence can be found in the Manifesto that was sold to The Gambian People. It says in its Conclusion section that:

    “The Independent Ticket supported by Coalition 2016 aims to create a transitional Coalition Government….”

    Well, a government includes the Legislative Branch and if the “Independent Ticket” is the method supported to create the transitional Government, then it follows that it must be the supported route to choose its elected officials.

    • Bax , when manifesto say that ” coalition 2016 aims to create a transitional coalition government ” , it means the executive branch of the government. These are ministers who are political appointees . The national assembly members are not part of the government because they are independent institution which should hold the executive accountable. Therefore , they can work in partnership with the executive based on the constitution to move the country forward or they could oppose any policy which they see as detrimental to the interest of the people. I am surprise PDOIS confused themselves with this simple concept . Halifa and PDOIS has decided not to be part of executive , and they think they can do better job as NA . Going by your limited understanding of the government as you implied , do you think APRC or GDC consider themselves as part of this government , i would say no and everyone would say no because their elected members are in NA which is an independent entity. stop making things up here , there is no manifesto which stated that independent NA members should be supported by coalition. Halifa is not an intelligent or smart politician , he is eloquent but not smart by all measures and standard . He lacks knowledge of law and constitution as evidence by his many constitutional missteps such as NADD , recent coalition controversy. A smart constitutionalist always make sure he is right on every constitution issue and must mastered the constitution at the finger tip. This is why we have constitutional lawyers or professors in many universities and these people specialized on constitutional matters and law . what is Halifa’s education , a sociology degree which no serious academic student would like to study unless you want to have a PHD or masters in sociology. for the record , i am not trying to discredit the value of sociology here. So with all the noises , you guys and your leadership are making , no one among the leadership has a degree in law. They need to consult udp leadership on all matters related to law and constitution ,

  3. Sulayman Touray says:

    Brilliantly put together my brother. Halifa’s three years term is not only irrational at best, but also illustrates all the hidden qualities of our prophet messiah- that’s always his way or the highway.
    Frankly, this’s the guy, for the past 40 years criticising any reasoning ideas/voice but one can hardly pinpoint any real achievement by him (Hallifa) either in the civil service, parastatal or in the government. And when he had real opportunities to demonstrate to us, he’s not all about talk but can transform the best of his ideas about Gambia into practical.
    I will be blunt here because I think some of those ideas are warped, especially considering the conservative nature of our society.
    Gambia clearly doesn’t need any unwanted distraction in this pressing moment, as we are trying to undo the 22 years of chaos of Yaya exiled administration.

    • That will depend on what you view as “real achievement “, won’t it ?

      It is not Halifa’s 3 year term. It is the Coalition’s 3 Year Term, which Presidential Candidate Barrow “sold” to The Gambian People.

      He pledged, through the Coalition Manifesto, to serve for ONLY 3 years, so don’t fault Halifa if he insists that the Coalition President honours his campaign pledge.

      • Mbacke Omar says:

        Hallifa should only focus on how the Gambia should be on track to bounce back the economic to fully stand. Not 3years of coalition agreement.is time to reform Gambia to be a better nation. Halifa be focus

      • Mr.Bax…Thankyou very much for your comment.This guys just hate Halifa..

  4. Modou Jobe says:

    Halifa has been selling the same product i.e his ideology for over three decades and Gambians didn’t buy it, Halifa Sallah will never be president of The Gambia, full stop. Regarding the MOU, Halifa opted out of that MOU by not participating or holding a single post in the coalition government, so why should Barrow or any coalition member be bound by that MOU, see the hypocrisy in Halifa Sallah

  5. Foday Samateh says:

    Hi Max, your piece was quite an enjoyable read. I’ve been curious to know who you are. It’s only fair since, by your comments to some of my articles, that you know who I am. If you wish to do so, my e-mail address is fodaysamateh@hotmail.com. If you choose not, I will respect your decision.

    • Dormu Rewwum Gambia (aka Luntango Suun Gann Gi) says:

      Max is a COWARD Foday. Even after Jammeh is gone he is still in hiding. It must be Jammeh’s GHOST scaring poor little Max (LoL!).

      • Dida , I have decided to keep my pen name meantime . Foday is a good brother who i knew in the Gambia. I always admire his intelligent and command of English language. I wish i have his writing skills. My brother Foday , I will keep your email and hopefully someday i will get back to you. By the way i hope you are enjoying the beautiful skyscrapers in Manhattan and time square.

        • Foday Samateh says:

          Sure, Max. I will hold my end of the bargain and respect your wish to maintain your identity private for the time being. But I have to disagree with you on the grading of quality you assigned to my writing ability. Your article under discussion made me rather envious. If only I could imitate such performance. Tips please.

          And a shoutout to Dida, too, another man of letters I so much love reading. Both of you keep writing to keep us reading. All the best.

          • Dormu Rewwum Gambia (aka Luntango Suun Gann Gi) says:

            Foday is indeed one of the best writers Gambia has ever produced. I may be somewhere in the horizon behind you. Max? Depends on his mood! Sometimes you think “wow!” when you read Max’s writings and at other times, like the time he was being an obsitinate obtuse tribalist, you think “What??!!”

          • Thank you Foday. You deserve more than that . Dida is the Dean of this forum and i am on my residency and i am learning very fast to catch up with Bax who always want to check on me for a slightest mistake. lol. Though I am very grateful to always have an advise of Bajaw in case I am in trouble.

  6. “Gambian people have voted for President Barrow to serve five years mandate as stipulated in the constitution in December 1st, 2016 Presidential election. This evidence is found in 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 on. Now the question that is not communicated is whether the “new National Assembly members should change the constitution to satisfy the coalition’s agreement or maintain the current five years term?”

    Max, to answer your question we have to look at the intent of the coalition which is fundamental in the agreement and all the other instruments that the coalition have created to be a governing entity if they win the presidential elections.

    The coalition intends to elect a president who will be an instrument of change. The coalition also intends to have a majority in the National Assembly that will support its change agenda.

    This intent was fundamental in the coalition coming to an agreement. They build a consensus around this intention.

    Now that the coalition’s intention have been fulfilled in both the presidential and national assembly elections, yes, the national assembly members should change the constitution to satisfy the agreement of the coalition. They have won the presidency and they also have a majority in the national assembly.

    “My answer to this question is simply NO. Politically, it will be impossible for the United Democratic Party (UDP) National Assembly members to support and vote for a constitutional change that limits President Barrow’s tenure in office.”

    And why is that the case?

    Nb: i will take your piece in paragraphs so that it will be easy to follow the sequence of the arguments.

    • Kamalo , the Gambian people voted for five years mandate and it will be betrayal and unconstitutional for national members to change that without referendum. National members cannot change such entrenched clause in the constitution . President Barrow is given mandate to uphold and defend the constitution provision of five years. MOU is not line in with constitutional mandate of five years . The intention of coalition leadership was three years and that was a violation of the constitution. Halifa and other leaders intended to violate the constitution which states that the president shall serves five years term mandate. I could argue that the intention of coalition leadership was to violate the constitution when they knew fully well that such intention will go against the verdict of the Gambian people. Legally , ethically and morally such intention should have not come from political leaders who should have known the law to their finger tip. Therefore any sensible and impartial judge will throw this issue into dustbin.
      The issue of intention as a defense strategy is a wrong approach. There is no case here to argue. The intention of Gambian people was five years term mandate which override the intention of MOU which is non binding , illegal and unwise, cost ineffective, considering the limited resources we have at this moment.

  7. Max, the Gambian people voted for a coalition agenda of a transitional government of 3 years.

    The coalition told the people to vote for an independent candidate supported by all the parties to the coalition for a term of three years.

    At the end of the three years the person who is elected president will resign to allow for a presidential election between the parties to the coalition. And the person elected president shall not support any party or presidential candidate in this election.

    Max, this is the agreement between the coalition parties that the Gambian people voted for. This agreement is contained in a memorandum of understanding and it is the instrument that the coalition has used to campaign for the presidency.

    Yes, the constitutional mandated for an elected president is 5 years. And this is an entrenched clause which requires a referendum for it to be changed.

    However, what we need to understand is why did the coalition partners agree for a presidential term of three years in their transitional government. And yet the constitutional mandate for an elected president is 5 years. And the answer is simple: Intent.

    The coalition parties intent to evolve a new beginning for our country. The reason why they also intended to elect a president who will preside over the evolution of this new beginning.

    Any of the presidential candidates who contested in the coalition convention could have been elected president. And one has affirmatively made a commitment to serve even less than the three year coalition mandate.

    So the issue of the coalition is a matter of trust more than it is a matter of the law.

    Again, the coalition intends to elect a president who will be an instrument of change. And they also intend to have a majority in the national assembly that will support the coalition’s change agenda. Both of these intentions have been achieved.

    The coalition parties make their commitment to a three year transitional government fully conversant with the Gambian constitution and the laws therein contained. But they also know for a fact that you can used the law to change a law or create new laws. This forms the basis of why the MOU cannot violate the Gambian constitution.

    In the 1970 Gambian constitution there is a provision for the vice president to serve for 90 days in the event of the resignation of the president. And after the 90 days there will be an election for another president.

    In the 1997 Gambian constitution there is no such provision. In the event of the resignation of the president the vice president or if there is no vice president, the speaker of the national assembly will complete the term of the president before another presidential elections.

    Now, to bridge the apparent discrepancy that exist between the coalition’s MOU of a transitional government of 3 years, and the constitutional mandate of the president to serve for a term of 5 years, the coalition parties envisage the use of the instrument of an amendment.

    They intend to introduce an amendment to the 1997 Gambian constitution that will add the provisions of the 1970 constitution that the vice president will serve for 90 days after the resignation of the president. After the 90 days there will be elections to elect a new president.

    If such an amendment bill is introduced in the national assembly it should pass. The coalition has the majority. This is one way to bring the MOU in sync with the Gambian constitution.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this section are the author's own and do not represent the editorial policy of Kairo News. Kairo News will trash any comment that inflames tribal, racial or religious hatred.

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