Gambia Participate is rallying Gambians to reinstate the Draft Constitution ahead of the 2026 Elections

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By Fatou Dahaba

Since 2020, the National Assembly has rejected the draft constitution sanctioned by the Constitutional Review Commission; Gambia Participate is rallying support from all key stakeholders to advance the nation’s aim of adopting a new constitution.

The high-level meeting, “Constitution We Want,” convened on Thursday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center, gathered a diverse group of constitutional stakeholders, including government officials, political parties, the Supreme Islamic Council, the Gambia Christian Council, and Civil Society Organizations in Bijilo, to build a consensus on the draft constitution’s arrival. 

Gambia Participate says they deem it necessary to bring together constitutional stakeholders for the much-needed dialogue and consensus before the reintroduction of the constitution.

The event fostered constructive engagement, allowing stakeholders to come together to envision and champion a constitution that embodies the aspirations and values of all Gambians. It also engaged stakeholders in dialogue and collaboration and laid the groundwork for an inclusive and participatory constitutional reform process.

Marr Nyang, Executive Director of Gambia Participate, is convinced that a strong and progressive constitution will create a resilient public law system that could be improved through parliamentary statutes and case laws.

“This is more sustainable than a habit of repealing a constitution anytime a new government is formed. We can use this opportunity to have a constitution that will stand a taste of time. A good constitution will not only guarantee a strong and sustainable democracy. Still, it will deter future leaders from becoming autocrats and build an accountable system.”

‘We have successfully transformed into a democracy in practice, but our democracy is vulnerable as there are provisions in our current constitution and another statutes that do not uphold the principle of a democratic society. As a result, the 1997 constitution cannot guarantee Gambians a sustainable democracy; thus, there is an urgent need for constitutional reform,’ Nyang said.

He pointed out that the fifth legislature’s rejection of the draft constitution has allowed constitutional stakeholders to collectively reflect on the issues that led to the rejection of the draft constitution.

Kalipha MM. Mbye, Clerk of Legal Procedural Matters National Assembly, stressed the important role of parliament in the crusade to give the country a new constitution that captures the people’s wishes and aspirations.

“Is our commitment to get the Gambia a new constitution, and we are cognizant of the important role parliament plays in getting us this fundamental document that we all yarn for as Gambians. Parliament is still important even after getting us a new constitution, which is the implementation process to be promulgated, and parliament must accompany not only the government but also the actual implementation of the constitution once the referendum is passed.”

He said the 1997 constitution was ducted into parliament by parliamentarians, and it is important to let national assembly members know that it is their responsibility to safeguard and preserve the constitution when it is passed for prosperity.

Salieu Taal, Chairperson of the Board Gambia Participate, said they will fail as people if the foundation document used as an instrument to oppressed citizens still governs how they live as a country. “It will stain their consent as Gambians to see that after eight years, they still have the 1997 constitution.”

Salieu Taal

‘It beholds all of us, with our differences, political colors, religions, tribes outlooks, perspectives. Suppose there’s any one thing that should bring us together. In that case, it is ensuring we have a third republic founded on a republican constitution to replace the draconian, undemocratic constitution that was weaponized against everyone indiscriminately. This is beyond and above politics, the vested interest. We should look at our collective interest as Gambians if we love our country and put our country first. We must do our utmost to make sure,  even when we disagree, we pass the constitution we want, the constitution we deserve for generations to come; history will not judge us kindly,” the former Bar Association President said.

These discussions are crucial in developing a thorough Constitution Position Paper that includes essential recommendations for the government’s consideration, guaranteeing the establishment of a constitution that embodies the desires of the populace.

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