At the end of his political campaign, under the guise of complying with one of the codes of conduct prescribed by Section 222 of the Gambia Constitution, the President Yaya Jammeh “proclaimed” The Gambia as an Islamic State. The purported proclamation is not a surprise to the United Democratic Party as President Jammeh has on several occasions paraded himself as the champion for Islam. He has also in the past made ill advised and ill-considered statements with far reaching adverse consequences.
The proclamation made in the village of Brufut is not only ill-considered and ill-advised but is also unconstitutional and a usurpation of the functions of the National Assembly. Section 1 of the Constitution declares The Gambia as a sovereign Secular Republic. This section of the Constitution is an entrenched provision. Like all other entrenched provisions of the Constitution, Section 1 came into being by the Constitution of The Gambia Promulgation Order 1997 passed by the National Assembly on 16th January 1997.
The only authority that has the constitutional mandate to amend or repeal a provision of the Constitution is the National Assembly of The Gambia in the exercise of its legislative powers. Even then, the National Assembly, with its plenary legislative powers, cannot amend or repeal any entrenched provision of the Constitution to make The Gambia an Islamic State, as section 100 (2) of the Constitution prohibits the National Assembly from doing so. This Section 100(2) states in very clear language that:
“The National Assembly shall not pass a Bill:-
- to establish a one party state;
- to establish any religion as a state religion.
To proclaim The Gambia an Islamic State therefore, is tantamount to establishing Islam as State religion which is unconstitutional and illegal.
Secondly, Section 100 as an entrenched provision which, like Section 1, cannot be altered without a referendum after other parliamentary procedures have been complied with.
The proclamation at Brufut is therefore, a willful flagrant violation by the President of his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution as the supreme law of The Gambia. Willful violation of any provision of the Constitution constitutes misconduct by the President and the members of the National Assembly should, in keeping with their oath of office, invoke Section 67 (2) of the Constitution for the removal of the President from office.
The proclamation is also an attempt by the President to abrogate Section 1 of the Constitution. Such an attempt is, by Section 6(1) of the Constitution, treason. Section 6(1) of the Constitution states that:-
“Any person who
- by himself or herself in concert with others, by any violent or other unlawful means, suspends or overthrows or abrogates this Constitution or any part of it, or attempts to do any such act, or;
- aids and abets in any manner any person referred in paragraph (a)
commits the offence of treason……………….”.
The proclamation is ill-considered and ill-advised because the President has not adverted his mind to the impact it will have on the general governance structure.
Will Gambia continue to operate the present legal system in an Islamic State? Will the financial institutions, save for Arab-Gambian Islamic Bank and Takaful Insurance Company, continue to operate the same way as they do at present, in Jammeh’s Islamic State? What about the National Assembly, the Judiciary and the Civil Service? What is the position of the non-Islamic religions in the Gambia which have for over hundred years coexisted in peace and perfect harmony with Islam and have made immense contribution to the education, health and other sectors of Gambian life?
The reason for proclaiming Gambia as an Islamic State exposes the contradiction and paradoxes in Jammeh’s crusade to wipe out what he calls the “vestiges and relics of colonialism”. Interestingly, whilst he chides the colonialists for leaving us with only a neck tie, he has great admiration and craving for some of the trappings and relics of colonialism that boost his ego. Does the President not know that the presence of the judges of the superior courts in their ceremonial robes and wigs at “the State opening of the legislative year” is a relic of colonialism? Does he not know that this is what happens in the British Parliament when Her Majesty the Queen delivers the speech from the throne? All the Law Lords attend the occasion. In the same way, he gets all the judges of the superior courts attend his State opening of the National Assembly. Why does not President Jammeh consider this event as a “relic of colonialism” unworthy of emulation? Just on Friday 14th December, the judges of the superior courts were at the National Assembly to grace the occasion of the presentation of the budget by the Minister of Finance. Another relic of colonialism. The “relics of colonialism” in the Gambia are legion.
The United Democratic Party believes that Jammeh’s obsession with colonialism is nothing but a ploy to divert the attention of the Gambian people from his failed policies. We will not be distracted. We will continue to ask why the economy is performing so badly; we will continue to ask why our youths are perishing in the Sahara Desert and in the Mediterranean Sea; we will continue to ask why the constitution and other laws are violated with impunity; we will continue to ask why you President Jammeh by your own utterances treat our women folk with contempt and disdain.
The UDP leader in an interview with AFP on this proclamation made it clear that the United Democratic Party will resist the implementation of any proclamation or other directive that are inconsistent with the Constitution. The United Democratic Party will, as it has done in the past, challenge the unconstitutionality of such proclamations/directives and give full effect to the words in the National Anthem “that all may live in unity …………and join our diverse people to prove man’s brotherhood”
Long live the Secular Republic of The Gambia
United Democratic Party
- 12. 2015