By Abdoulie Lowe
1. Electoral reforms- The establishment of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for a level playing field is crucial. Once confirmed by the National Assembly, the President can’t terminate the services of the chairman of the IEC. The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied by anyone based on tribe or party affiliation. The right to vote must be guaranteed for everyone- including those in the Diaspora- who will be at least 18 years of age by the date of the next elections. ALL Political parties will be given equal access to state media and be protected by the security forces during campaigns.
2. Presidential Term Limits- The age limit in the 1997 Constitution will be removed and replaced with a presidential term limit. A new law must be enacted to set the presidential term limit to a maximum of two 5 year terms. This will help steer the country in new direction every 5 or 10 years and to make sure the country is not static.
3. Freedom of Speech, Religion, and the press- This include allowing the opposition unrestricted access to GRTS and other media houses. This will also guarantee the right of citizens to assemble and protest to express their grievances and to petition the government to effect meaningful changes. Permits will only be required if a public address system will be used; otherwise, the police department needs to be notified of the date, time, and place the protest will take place in order for them to provide security and to maintain law and order. This notification can be done through telephone, email, or in writing.
4. Protection from Arbitrary arrests- No more arrests contingent solely upon one man’s discretion. No arrests without a warrant or court order. No unreasonable search and/or arrest warrants shall be issued. No detention passed the 72 hours limit stipulated by the constitution. And there’ll no more continuous detentions without being charged with a crime. A reasonable bail must be set and bail granted for a bail-able offense. Everyone’s right to a speedy, free, and fair trial will be guaranteed and preserved. Any violations of these basic constitutional rights will resort to financial compensations levied on whoever authorized the arrests and subsequent detentions.
5. Balance of power- President must be stripped off his unlimited powers to hire and fire at will. In addition to the National Assembly, a Supreme Court must be established as the Third Branch of Government in order to stop the rampant abuse of power by the executive branch.
6. Decentralization of power. It is obvious that power is highly concentrated in one hand; therefore, desegregation of power is paramount. We need every Gambian institution to be independent and sacred of any type of interference from another institution, especially the executive branch. The president can’t no longer terminate the services of local government employees such as mayors and Alkalos. Alkalos should be empowered to mediate and settle minor disputes in the villages and towns. And, if the dispute is major or they can’t broker a swift and lasting solution, then Commissioners will come to help settle the conflict. And if the commissioner in whose jurisdictions the conflict happens can’t resolve the issue, then it shall be forwarded to the judicial system for a free, fair, and swift resolution.
7. Reformation of the Armed and Security Forces- Turn it into an independent institution that will educate, discipline, and enhance the workforce.
8. Truth and Reconciliation Commission- Every atrocity committed against the Gambian people must be investigated and the responsible parties held accountable.
9. Protection of inalienable human rights- life, liberty, and private property. The establishment of tough laws to protect private property is paramount. Private property shall not be taken or demolished without just reason or compensation. Absolutely no torture, corporal punishment, coercion, duress, or degrading punishment or maltreatment of anyone, even those suspected of committing a crime. Torture is inhumane and must be eradicated at all costs.
10. Supreme Court- The Supreme court judges must be appointed to a lifetime tenure. Once confirmed, Supreme Court judges can’t be terminated by anyone without due process of the law and found guilty of gross misconduct and/or convicted of a felonious crime. The Supreme Court of The Gambia will comprise of scrupulous Gambian citizens with the right education (law degree), experience, wisdom, temperament, levelheadedness, independent-mindedness, and moral virtues to act reasonably and interpret our constitution and other relevant laws with prudence and precision.