Gambia Constitutional Reform Wish List

By Saul Saidykhan

We as Gambians are yet to hear of a package of legislation being pushed by our Attorney General, Mr. Tambedou, to avoid a repetition of the madness of the 22-year dictatorship under Yahya Jammeh under which so many of us suffered.

I have here a 10-point wish list that I would like to be in Mr. Tambedou’s constitutional reform. Everyone I know has an idea of what they want to see changed in the constitution and I would welcome ideas from fellow Gambians. Mr. Tambedou needs to get the ball rolling. There will be twitches and changes based on compromise and consultations like everywhere else, but we cannot continue with this snail’s pace. Here is my wish list of priorities that need to be considered:

  1. ALL public positions from Regional Administrators/Governors to President should be directly elected by the people they govern. (Could this include District Chiefs and Alkalos, asks Dida)
  2. Two-five years’ term of office for ALL public offices beginning with President – to be an entrenched clause within the constitution. (Could this include Mayors and Councillors too – and MPs or NAMs!)
  3. An incumbent President defeated at the polls must vacate office within 48 hours, but he/she and all senior officials of the outgoing administration from cabinet level MUST remain in The Gambia for 120 days to supervise the handing over to their successors and or to answer relevant questions relating to their stewardship.
  4. A statement that no one who has held office of President for ten years at any point in their life can NEVER qualify to run again for the same office-to be an entrenched clause.
  5. Use the Regional blocks of The Gambia (Banjul, KMC, Western Region, Lower River Region, North Bank Region, Central River Region, and Upper River Region) as a barometer analogous to the US Electoral College system. A Presidential candidate needs a minimum of four Regions to get to win the elections. 4/7 to win means that cheating in a couple of areas cannot get you to win and it also means that the winner has wide support across the country.
  6. A Presidential candidate must be at least 45 years of age, and must have a minimum of two years of verifiable post-high school education or training before attempting to run for office.
  7. All public officials from Regional Administrators/Governors to President MUST fully declare their individual and immediate family assets at least a week before assuming office, and within a week after leaving office.
  8. A Freedom of Information right for Gambians to seek and access all NON-State compromising information regarding how their national affairs are run. (This would be important for journalists and their role in informing the citizens).
  9. All political parties must file a financial disclosure form with the IEC twice yearly to show all source of funding for their operations, and how they expend those funds. (Indeed, foreign funding can easily subvert local democracy – Soros famous for this).
  10. Chiefs should be stripped COMPLETELY of administrative and judicial powers relating to land or civil disputes. After fifty-two years, it’s time we render this abused and defiled system ceremonial before it destroys our country completely. (That is interesting. At the moment they represent the Governor at District level, so we may have to replace them with elected District Commissioners?)
  11. Any attempt to change an entrenched clause must be funded privately by the person initiating the action from a verifiably CLEAN source. And 67% of REGISTERED voters must vote and agree with the change! (“From a verifiably CLEAN source” – may mean not by George Soros.Part of the reason why Hilary Clinton lost to Trump was because she was seen as being “bought” by Arab millions that funded her campaign. In poor African countries, foreign money pouring into election campaigns basically decides the election, as with Soros’ funding of the Presidential elections in Guinea)
  12. Designate a Magnate town or towns in each Region of the country beside Banjul as Capital: Kanifing or Brusibi for KMC, Brikama and Bwiam for Western Region Mansakonko and Soma for Lower River Region, Farafenni or Kerewan for North Bank Region, Bansang for Central River Region, and Basse, Gambisara or Sabi for Upper River Region. (Based on population figures, government policies should deliberately promote these regional towns to become fully self-sustaining entities that can educate and create decent job opportunities for the indigents of the area. This will not only help in checking the dangerous Back Way phenomenon we’re yet to emerge from, it will help in stemming the alarming internal rural-urban migration we’ve seen in the past generation caused by the concentration of public resources in the relatively small urban area of the country to the detriment of the generality of the country. I shall focus on the Economics of how we can flip this around IN THEORY. (This sounds an excellent idea. I have always thought that the Capital City should move to a central location such as MansaKonko – Nigerians did that with Abuja and Tanzania with Dodoma. This has the benefit of making the political elite accessible to the whole country).
  13. Anyone convicted of any crime anywhere in the world that would be a crime in The Gambia cannot run for public office. (And if a foreigner, not be able to even enter the country! What is good for the USA should be good for Africa!).

I’m sure our legal luminaries have  better ways of framing these and other ideas many have…

Saul Saidykhan

(edited by Dida Halake.)