The Gambia Bar Association
24 Independence Drive
Banjul, The Gambia
Dear Mrs. President,
RE: 18th July 2017 PRESS STATEMENT FROM GAMBIA BAR ASSOCIATION
The Executive released a statement on March 31st 2017. The statement indicated “The Gambia Bar Association has amongst its primary aims and objectives the following key purpose:
- To maintain the standards, integrity, honour and independence of the Bar, to promote, preserve and improve the services and functions of the Bar, and to represent and act for the Bar generally as well as in matters affecting the administration of justice;
- To defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia;
- To maintain and defend the honour, independence and integrity of the legal profession; [and]
- To maintain and defend the independence of the judiciary.
In reassuring the public, the members of the Bar have restated their unwavering commitment to uphold these principles and to live up to aspirations of The Gambian people and the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia”
In my humble opinion, there is no better assurance we as a fraternity can offer to the Gambian people. However, the latest press release — captioned above — has made me questioned the Bar on its commitments and sincerity to the aforementioned statement. As a bona fide member, I believe that if the Association fails, I fail and if it succeeds, I equally succeed. I believe the latest press release with respect to the leak audio recording of a conversation between Solicitor and Barrister Sheriff Tambadou (Prosecutor) and the wife of Yankuba Badjie (Accused) is inconsistent with other recent conducts of the Executive of the Association. The Executive of the Association has consistently been silent on misconducts of government officials even those which directly and/or indirectly undermines and contradicts the stated above-quoted aims and objectives of the Association. Examples of such government misconducts are:
- the government has amended section 62 of the Constitution of The Gambia without following proper procedure. The said Bill was enacted by the National Assembly and was presented to the President for his assent. I called it unconstitutional on social media and over the radio. After a week or so, the AG apologized to the public and advised the President not to assent the Bill. I had expected that the Association, through the Executive, would have been the first institution to condemn such action. It is our primary aim and objective to defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia. The Bar Association neither made a public statement to this unconstitutional action nor did anything to ensure such will not happen again;
- the Interior Minister Mai Fatty in a press conference uttered a statement that led to a journalist being attacked by a political militant mob. Mr. Darboe, the Foreign Affairs Minister condemned the actions of Mr. Fatty. Again, I had expected the Association to say or do something about it since it is our primary aim and objective to defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia. We remained silent and did nothing;
- the President has been in office for almost a year. He failed to appoint a Vice President as required by section 70(3) of the Constitution. The President’s inaction is inconsistent with the Constitution of The Gambia. I have written an article about it and some senior members of the Bar have called on the President to appoint a Vice President to end the constitutional abuse of an overseer of the Vice President’s Office. I expected the Association to say or do something about it since it is our primary aim and objective to defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia. Again, the Association has to date failed to take a public position of the gross violation of the Constitution;
- the unfortunate incident that happened in the former President’s home led to the death of one unarmed citizen and wounding several defenseless demonstrators. The Government gave inconsistent accounts and are yet to conduct a credible investigation on what truly transpired. I had expected the Association to say or do something about it since it is our primary aim and objective to defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia. Despite the seriousness of the incident, no statement was released and no action was taken by the Association;
- the APRC political party has been refused permit to celebrate the anniversary of the 22nd July 1994 Military Coup d’état. The reasons given for denial of permits are inconsistent with the Constitution of The Gambia. I expect the Association to say or do something about it since it is our primary aim and objective to defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia. We decided to ignore it; and
- recently a young Gambian mysteriously died in police custody. The circumstances leading to his dead are unknown and the police are quiet about it. I expect the Association to say or do something about it since we professed that our primary aim and objective is to defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia. Again and as usual, the Association decided to ignore it.
In all these instances, we have a legitimate ground, and a responsibility to act either by calling press conferences or issuing press releases. Evidently, we failed the nation in all these defining moments in our democratic transition. I was not pleased with the Bar’s silence in these important national occurrences. Every time a controversy with potentials to erupt constitutional crises; violate fundamental human, civil, and political rights of citizens; or chill democratic governance in our country the Association remained muted as if it’s not a stakeholder in any matter concerning democratic and good governance.
I, among many members of the Bar and fellow citizens, looked forward for a statement from the Association but ended up disappointed as usual. I am at the verge of resigning to the dreadful reality that the Association has made a strategic decision never to confront the government where the rights of individual citizens or people of The Gambia are willfully violated by this or any government as evident from our recent tragic past.
I read the press release regarding the public scandal that involved one of our members. Out of all the challenges we are confronted by, this is the priority we cherry picked to address in a public press release. Where is the justice and fairness we claimed? We are willing to devour our own but act sycophantically towards the government. We must be fair and balance in our activities or else we will continue to fail in delivering on our mission to the country. Consistency is an integral part of integrity. I would have had no worries or concerns were the actions of Executive consistent across the board ‘without fear or favor, affection or ill will’ as enshrined in our Constitution.
It is my humble opinion that we should change our strategies and reassess ourselves. In failing to do self-introspection, we risk charges of dereliction of duties and ultimately irrelevance into the dustbin of history. The division in the Bar is very apparent amongst its members. This has discouraged the rank-and-file junior members of the Association. I believe the silence of the Bar on important national concerns widen the rift between our members as it erodes confidence in the Association. In the past, counsel complained they did not receive the support they expected from the Association, and that it is biased in dealing with members. Unless we are vigilant to courageously condemn injustices and abuses at all times, members whose actions are publicly condemned will see such reprimands as personal attacks.
Be assured that my intention is not to attack anyone, rather to express a legitimate concern.
Bubacarr Drammeh Esq.